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Scientists May Be Closer to Developing 'Red Wine' Drug

THURSDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers believe they've discovered how resveratrol -- a chemical found in red wine and other plant products -- provides health benefits.

The researchers said their work with mice may help settle the debate about resveratrol's biochemistry and could advance efforts to develop resveratrol-based medicines.

"Resveratrol has potential as a therapy for diverse diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and heart disease," study author Dr. Jay Chung, chief of the Laboratory of Obesity and Aging Research at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said in an institute news release. "However, before researchers can transform resveratrol into a safe and effective medicine, they need to know exactly what it targets in cells."

Resveratrol appears to inhibit proteins called phosphodiesterases (PDEs), which help regulate cell energy, according to the researchers.

Some previous studies suggested that resveratrol's primary target is sirtuin 1, but the authors of this new study doubted that when they found that resveratrol activity required another protein called AMPK. This would not be the case if resveratrol directly interacted with sirtuin 1.

The researchers analyzed the metabolic activity in cells treated with resveratrol and identified the protein PDE4 in the skeletal muscle as the principal target for the health benefits of resveratrol.

Follow-up tests with mice confirmed that resveratrol attaches to and inhibits PDE proteins.

The findings are published in the Feb. 3 issue of the journal Cell.

Results from animal research are not necessarily applicable to humans. Much more research is needed before resveratrol drugs could be developed.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute discusses red wine and cancer prevention.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, Feb. 2, 2012

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