Journal: Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)
Natural products have always been exploited to promote health and served as a valuable source for the discovery of new drugs. In this review, the great potential of natural compounds and medicinal plants for the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, global health problems with rising prevalence, is addressed. Special emphasis is laid on natural products for which efficacy and safety have already been proven and which are in clinical trials, as well as on plants used in traditional medicine. Potential benefits from certain dietary habits and dietary constituents, as well as common molecular targets of natural products, are also briefly discussed. A glimpse at the history of statins and biguanides, two prominent representatives of natural products (or their derivatives) in the fight against metabolic disease, is also included. The present review aims to serve as an “opening” of this special issue of Molecules, presenting key historical developments, recent advances, and future perspectives outlining the potential of natural products for prevention or therapy of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
A graphical abstract (GA) represents a piece of artwork that is intended to summarize the main findings of an article for readers at a single glance. Many publishers currently encourage authors to supplement their articles with GAs, in the hope that such a convenient visual summary will facilitate readers with a clearer outline of papers that are of interest and will result in improved overall visibility of the respective publication. To test this assumption, we statistically compared publications with or without GA published in Molecules between March 2014 and March 2015 with regard to several output parameters reflecting visibility. Contrary to our expectations, manuscripts published without GA performed significantly better in terms of PDF downloads, abstract views, and total citations than manuscripts with GA. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical study on the effectiveness of GA for attracting attention to scientific publications.
Artificial sweeteners have become increasingly controversial due to their questionable influence on consumers' health. They are introduced in most foods and many consume this added ingredient without their knowledge. Currently, there is still no consensus regarding the health consequences of artificial sweeteners intake as they have not been fully investigated. Consumption of artificial sweeteners has been linked with adverse effects such as cancer, weight gain, metabolic disorders, type-2 diabetes and alteration of gut microbiota activity. Moreover, artificial sweeteners have been identified as emerging environmental pollutants, and can be found in receiving waters, i.e., surface waters, groundwater aquifers and drinking waters. In this study, the relative toxicity of six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k (ace-k)) and that of ten sport supplements containing these artificial sweeteners, were tested using genetically modified bioluminescent bacteria from E. coli. The bioluminescent bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants, act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system. Both induced luminescent signals and bacterial growth were measured. Toxic effects were found when the bacteria were exposed to certain concentrations of the artificial sweeteners. In the bioluminescence activity assay, two toxicity response patterns were observed, namely, the induction and inhibition of the bioluminescent signal. An inhibition response pattern may be observed in the response of sucralose in all the tested strains: TV1061 (MLIC = 1 mg/mL), DPD2544 (MLIC = 50 mg/mL) and DPD2794 (MLIC = 100 mg/mL). It is also observed in neotame in the DPD2544 (MLIC = 2 mg/mL) strain. On the other hand, the induction response pattern may be observed in its response in saccharin in TV1061 (MLIndC = 5 mg/mL) and DPD2794 (MLIndC = 5 mg/mL) strains, aspartame in DPD2794 (MLIndC = 4 mg/mL) strain, and ace-k in DPD2794 (MLIndC = 10 mg/mL) strain. The results of this study may help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners on E. coli, a sensing model representative of the gut bacteria. Furthermore, the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel can potentially be used for detecting artificial sweeteners in the environment, using a specific mode-of-action pattern.
In this work, a steroidal gelator containing an imine bond was synthesized, and its gelation behavior as well as a sensitivity of its gels towards acids was investigated. It was shown that the gels were acid-responsive, and that the gelator molecules could be prepared either by a conventional synthesis or directly in situ during the gel forming process. The gels prepared by both methods were studied and it was found that they had very similar macro- and microscopic properties. Furthermore, the possibility to use the gels as carriers for aromatic drugs such as 5-chloro-8-hydroxyquinoline, pyrazinecarboxamide, and antipyrine was investigated and the prepared two-component gels were studied with regard to their potential applications in drug delivery, particularly in a pH-controlled drug release.
Agarwood is the fragrant resin-infused wood derived from the wounded trees of Aquilaria species. It is a valuable non-timber forest product used in fragrances and as medicine. Reforestation for Aquilaria trees in combination with artificial agarwood-inducing methods serves as a way to supply agarwood and conserve of wild Aquilaria stock. However, the existing agarwood-inducing methods produce poor-quality agarwood at low yield. Our study evaluated a novel technique for producing agarwood in cultivated Aquilaria trees, called the whole-tree agarwood-inducing technique (Agar-Wit). Ten different agarwood inducers were used for comparison of Agar-Wit with three existing agarwood-inducing methods. For Aquilaria trees treated with these ten inducers, agarwood formed and spread throughout the entire tree from the transfusion point in the trunk to the roots and branches of the whole tree. Agarwood yield per tree reached 2,444.83 to 5,860.74 g, which is 4 to 28 times higher than that by the existing agarwood-inducing methods. Furthermore, this agarwood derived from Agar-Wit induction was found to have a higher quality compared with the existing methods, and similar to that of wild agarwood. This indicates Agar-Wit may have commercial potential. Induction of cultivated agarwood using this method could satisfy the significant demand for agarwood, while conserving and protecting the remaining wild Aquilaria trees.
Flavonoids are a significant group of secondary metabolites in plants. Many of these compounds are potent antioxidants, being an important part in food products derived from the plants. The current status of research on flavonoid compounds in the fruit of Saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.) and their health promoting effects, including recommended utilization, are reviewed. The major classes of flavonoids in the fruit are flavonols (quercetin and rutin), flavanes (proanthocyanidin compounds ranging from dimers through to heptamers and even higher polymers) and finally anthocyanins. The flavonoids represented the group of polyphenols that mostly contributed to the antioxidant activity of Saskatoon berries. High content of the flavoinoids antioxidants in the fruit is responsible for the observed anti-inflammatory, antidiadiabetic and chemo-protective effects.
Activity-guided isolation of a methanolic extract of Galla Rhois using pancreatic lipase and 3T3-L1 adipocytes led to the isolation of seven phenolic compounds: protoaphin-fb (1), 2-O-digalloyl-1,3,4,6-tetra-O-galloyl-b-D-glucose (2), 1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-galloyl-b-D-glucose (3), 1,2,4,6-tetra-O-galloyl-b-D-glucose (4), 3-hydroxy-5-methoxy-phenol 1-O-b-D-glucoside (5), methylgallate (6), and gallic acid (7). Their structures were established on the basis of NMR and MS spectroscopic data interpretation. All isolates were evaluated for their inhibitory effects on pancreatic lipase, and compounds 1-5 exhibited potent inhibitory effects on this enzyme, with IC50 values ranging from 30.6 ± 2.4 to 3.5 ± 0.5 mM. In addition, the highly galloylated compound 2 was also found to induce potent inhibition of adipocyte differentiation in 3T3-L1 cells.
Glucosinolates (GLs) are natural compounds present in species of the order Brassicales and precursors of bioactive isothiocyanates (ITCs). In the recent years, they have been studied mainly for their chemopreventive as well as novel chemotherapeutics properties. Among them 4-(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)benzyl glucosinolate (glucomoringin; GMG), purified from seeds of Moringa oleifera Lam., a plant belonging to the Moringaceae family, represents an uncommon member of the GL family with peculiar characteristics. This short communication reports new evidences about the properties of GMG and presents a new innovative utilization of the molecule. The bioactivation of GMG by myrosinase enzyme just before treatment, permits to maximize the power of the final product of the reaction, which is the 4-(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate (GMG-ITC). We tested the antibiotic activity of this latter compound on two strains of pathogens affecting the health of patients in hospital, namely Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus casseliflavus, and on the yeast Candida albicans. Results show that the sensibility of S. aureus BAA-977 strain and E. casseliflavus to GMG-ITC treatment reveals an important possible application of this molecule in the clinical care of patients, more and more often resistant to traditional therapies.
The synthesis, tautomerism and antibacterial activity of novel barbiturates is reported. In particular, 3-acyl and 3-carboxamidobarbiturates exhibited antibacterial activity, against susceptible and some resistant Gram-positive strains of particular interest is that these systems possess amenable molecular weight, rotatable bonds and number of proton-donors/acceptors for drug design as well as less lipophilic character, with physicochemical properties and ionic states that are similar to current antibiotic agents for oral and injectable use. Unfortunately, the reduction of plasma protein affinity by the barbituric core is not sufficient to achieve activity in vivo. Further optimization to reduce plasma protein affinity and/or elevate antibiotic potency is therefore required, but we believe that these systems offer unusual opportunities for antibiotic drug discovery.
Here we describe the synthesis and biological properties of two types of star-shaped polymer-doxorubicin conjugates: non-targeted conjugate prepared as long-circulating high-molecular-weight (HMW) polymer prodrugs with a dendrimer core and a targeted conjugate with the anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody (mAb) rituximab (RTX). The copolymers were linked to the dendrimer core or to the reduced mAb via one-point attachment forming a star-shaped structure with a central antibody or dendrimer surrounded by hydrophilic polymer chains. The anticancer drug doxorubicin (DOX) was attached to the N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA)-based copolymer chain in star polymer systems via a pH-labile hydrazone linkage. Such polymer-DOX conjugates were fairly stable in aqueous solutions at pH 7.4, and the drug was readily released in mildly acidic environments at pH 5-5.5 by hydrolysis of the hydrazone bonds. The cytotoxicity of the polymer conjugates was tested on several CD20-positive or negative human cell lines. Similar levels of in vitro cytotoxicity were observed for all tested polymer conjugates regardless of type or structure. In vivo experiments using primary cell-based murine xenograft models of human diffuse large B-cell lymphoma confirmed the superior anti-lymphoma efficacy of the polymer-bound DOX conjugate when compared with the original drug. Targeting with RTX did not further enhance the anti-lymphoma efficacy relative to the non-targeted star polymer conjugate. Two mechanisms could play roles in these findings: changes in the binding ability to the CD-20 receptor and a significant loss of the immunological properties of RTX in the polymer conjugates.