Life Extension Update
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Plant compounds could prevent joint inflammation
Research reported in the September 27 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.pnas.org/) revealed that compounds found in cruciferous vegetables could help protect the joints from damaging inflammation, which may lead to a new treatment for arthritis.
The current experiment resulted from the interest of researchers at Johns Hopkins University concerning the differing effects that shear stress has on blood vessels and joints. Shear stress is generated when liquids move across surfaces, which in this case are the cells lining the blood vessels and the joints. Blood vessels produce beneficial phase 2 enzymes that help protect cells from carcinogens in response to shear stress, but in the joints high shear stress increases cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) enzyme levels, resulting in pain, inflammation and suppression of phase 2 enzymes, and the eventual death of cartilage cells known as chondrocytes.
To find out what would happen when chondrocytes were first exposed to phase 2 enzymes, the Hopkins researchers, led by associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, exposed cultured chondrocytes to compounds derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli that are known to increase the enzymes. After 24 hours, the researchers subjected the cells to a stress test designed to mimic the effects of exercise, which would normally produce an increase in COX-2. Lead author Zachary R. Healy, who is a doctoral student in Dr Konstantopoulos' laboratory, explained the findings: “The beneficial phase 2 enzymes somehow seemed to prevent the activation of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme. The phase 2 enzymes inhibited the inflammation and the apoptosis -- the cellular suicide we'd observed."
Paul Talalay, who is a coauthor of the PNAS report, commented, "This was the first work done in applying these phytochemicals to chondrocytes, which are constantly under the influence of forces because of the way we move our joints. The phase 2 inducers seemed to counteract the effects of that stress by inhibiting the expression of COX-2 enzyme. It's interesting to think that people may be able to obtain this benefit through dietary components."
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The September 2005 Journal of Nutrition (http://www.nutrition.org/) published the findings of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers that an extract derived from pomegranate fruit can block enzymes that contribute to osteoarthritis. The study is the first to show the ability of the fruit to slow cartilage deterioration.
The word arthritis literally means inflammation of the joint. Joints can become inflamed for many reasons, but most of us think of arthritis usually as one of two kinds: osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. These are two very distinct entities, and they are both a huge source of discomfort and disability. A significant amount of new research provides an understanding of both kinds of arthritis so that those who are afflicted may find relief.
Inflammation is partially characterized by high levels of arachidonic acid products which are metabolized along two different enzymatic pathways: cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase, leading to prostaglandin (PGE-2) and leukotriene (LTB4). Some physicians believe these are the most important mediators of inflammation (Srivastava et al. 1992). PGE2 and LTB4 play a crucial role in arthritis by causing resorption of bone, stimulating the secretion of collagen breakdown enzymes, and inhibiting the formation of proteoglycans--the building blocks of cartilage.
Unlike toxic FDA-approved drugs, natural therapies and diet modification can often provide relief from chronic inflammation and pain. One of the most compelling reasons for using natural therapies in arthritic conditions is that while some drugs can cause cartilage destruction, natural therapies correct the underlying factors involved in arthritic cartilage degeneration. Natural therapies have been shown to work by the following mechanisms:
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