A root used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat stroke may work by prompting the growth of blood vessels, according to City of Hope researchers. The findings could point to new ways of treating cardiovascular diseases.
|Wei Wen studies natural compounds. (Photo by Markie Ramirez)|
Chinese herbologists traditionally use the root of the Baikal skullcap, also known as huáng qín, to treat a number of problems including stroke and heart disease. A research team led by Wei Wen, Ph.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine, studied the molecular effects of the root and its chief component, baicalin. The study appeared online Sept. 16 in Cardiovascular Research.
Working in the laboratory, the researchers exposed different cell types, including endothelial cells, fibroblast cells and brain cancer cells, to root extract as well as pure baicalin. They found the cells produced higher levels of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, which promotes blood vessel formation.
The researchers also found that the substances could stimulate the formation of blood vessel “sprouts” in a lab dish, further suggesting baicalin and the extract could boost blood vessel formation.
|The Baikal skullcap|
“Our results not only provide evidence that this traditional herbal medicine has real activity, but they also point to a mechanism behind that activity,” said Wen.
Wen, who focuses much of her research on identifying natural compounds with potential therapeutic benefit, hopes that baicalin might be useful for treating heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. She remains cautious, however, since the study also suggests the compound could be harmful for some cancer patients.
“Certainly more research is needed before we draw any firm conclusions about clinical benefit,” she said.
The Stop Cancer Foundation, the Concern Foundation and the Markel/Friedman Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer Research Fund sponsored the research.