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[SANET-MG] Knotty but nice
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/KAN.phpISIS Press Release 29/04/05
Knotty but Nice: Spectacular Anti-Cancer Agents in Tree Knots
Prof. Joe Cummins reports on further anti-cancer chemicals that are
found in common plant sources
A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members’
website. Details here
Two years ago I wrote on how organic agriculture has the potential to
combat cancer. Plant chemicals called phenolics or flavonoids, effective
in preventing cancer, have been found elevated in organic foods. Another
family of plant chemicals related to flavonoids, called lignans,
recently yielded spectacular results in preventing and treating human
Lignans contain two benzene rings to which are attached particular three
carbon arms. Lignans are not to be confused with lignin, the polymer
that binds cellulose fibers together to make cell walls. Lignin is
synthesized from monomer units similar to lignans, but lignin is not
associated with the beneficial properties of lignans.
A recent review suggested that an anti-cancer diet would decrease
breast, colorectal and prostate cancer by 60 to 70 percent and lung
cancer by 40 to 50 percent. Taking flaxseed, especially its lignan
fraction, lowers cancer risk. Flaxseed lignan has been found effective
not only in treating cancer but also in reducing the risk of heart
disease and to have beneficial effects in lupus and polycystic kidney
disease. Flaxseed meal ameliorated kidney damage in type-two diabetes.
The anticancer effect of a plant lignan was demonstrated using human
prostate cancer cells transplants in nude (immune deficient) mice. Rat
mammary tumors were reduced after treatment with a plant lignan isolated
from the knots of spruce trees. Along with flaxseed extracts the knots
of trees are proving to be a rich source of anti-cancer lignans.
The knots of spruce and fir trees are believed to be the richest source
of lignans. Up to 24 percent of the dry weight of the knot may be
lignans, while much lower levels are found in the stem wood. Extracting
lignans from the knots was not difficult.
Knot-wood extracts proved to be effective in controlling paper-mill
bacteria that undermine paper quality; and lignans were a deterrent to
feeding insects. These anti-microbial and insecticidal properties will
no doubt be further developed.
Not surprisingly, there has been a spate of patenting to exploit the
therapeutic potential of lignans. Of the many relevant patents, US
Patent 6451849 deals with the use of a lignan for cancer prevention, and
for treating non-cancer hormone-dependent disease and cardiovascular
disease. The patent describes an active lignan and its preparation. US
patent 67675654 describes a method for preparing plant lignan for use in
treating cancer, diabetes, lupus, hypertension and high blood pressure.
The first patent applications for genetically modified crops with
increased lignan content have begun to appear. US patent application
20020174452 is for genetic modification of monocots such as rice with
genes that increase lignan level in grain using tissue specific promoters.
It is not surprising that biotechnology has taken lignan to heart, and
that industry has a large and shameless public relations machinery which
will likely try to make it look as if biotechnology, and not nature,
that has invented lignans.
Like numerous other health-promoting natural chemicals, lignans are
common in plant species that are still widely available, although they
are increasingly threatened by industrial farming and especially GM
crops, which have now proved to be even more destructive of natural
biodiversity than conventional industrial farming ("GM crop fails final
test", ISIS report). This is another reason for a comprehensive shift to
sustainable farming systems that preserve and enhance natural biodiversity.
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