New study - Chinese herbal medicine may treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis

Thursday, March 24, 2011 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: Chinese medicine, cancer, health news

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(NaturalNews) (NaturalNews) For centuries, traditional Chinese healers have used a medicinal plant usually called thunder god vine, or lei gong teng, as a therapy for a host of health problems including rheumatoid arthritis. Now, in a new report just published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have revealed there is solid evidence the plant (known by the botanical name Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F) has potential anti-tumor and other healing properties -- and they think they now know how it works. Thunder god vine (lei gong teng) contains compounds that help control the "machinery" of genes on the cellular level.

"Extracts of this medicinal plant have been used to treat a whole host of conditions and have been highly lauded for anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, contraceptive and anti-tumor activities," Jun O. Liu, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins, said in a media statement. "We've known about the active compound, triptolide, and that it stops cell growth, since 1972, but only now have we figured out what it does."

In animal studies, triptolide, the active ingredient purified from thunder god vine, has been found to be effective against arthritis and even skin graft rejection. Incredibly, according to Dr. Liu, triptolide also has been shown to block the growth of all 60 U.S. National Cancer Institute cancer cell lines at very low doses, and even causes some of those cell lines to die. Other research has provided evidence triptolide interferes with proteins known to activate genes and Dr. Liu and his research team are now focusing on this area in their studies.

So far, the scientists have systematically tested triptolide's impact on different proteins involved with gene control by looking at how much new DNA, RNA and protein is produced in cells. They found that triptolide has a general ability to stop RNA polymerase II (RNAP II) activity, which plays a complex role in transcribing DNA. Bottom line: Dr. Liu revealed this impact on RNAP II could explain triptolide's anti-inflammatory effects as well as its potential to treat cancer.

"And its behavior has important additional implications for circumventing the resistance that some cancer cells develop to certain anticancer drugs," Dr. Liu added in a statement to the media. "We're eager to study it further to see what it can do for future cancer therapy."

[Editor`s Note: NaturalNews is strongly against the use of all forms of animal testing. We fully support implementation of humane medical experimentation that promotes the health and wellbeing of all living creatures.]

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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