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Study seems to show why French suffer less heart disease, cancer

CHAPEL HILL - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists have discovered why a compound found in grapes and grape products such as red wine shows natural cancer-fighting properties that might be important in preventing or treating the illness.

The work appears to explain the so-called "French paradox" -- the fact that French people experience lower rates of heart disease death and certain cancers despite drinking more wine on average than U.S. residents do.

Scientists found that the substance, trans-Resveratrol, or Res, modulates the activity of NF-kappa B, a protein that attaches to DNA inside cell nuclei and turns genes on and off like a switch, the scientists found. Res apparently helps turn off a natural protective mechanism in the body involving the protein that prevents cancer cells from being killed, as they should be.

A report on the work appears in the July issue of Cancer Research, a scientific journal. Authors are Dr. Minnie Holmes-McNary, a nutritional biologist and postdoctoral fellow at the UNC-CH School of Medicine's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and her mentor Dr. Albert S. Baldwin Jr., a biology professor who also works at the center.

"A couple of years ago, a group at the University of Illinois found that Res has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties," Holmes-McNary said. "The question then became how does it exert its effects, and that's what we show in our paper."

Working with cultured human and rat cells, the scientists tested whether Res could inhibit both activation of NF-kappa B and NF-kappa B-dependent gene expression. They found that Res was a powerful inhibitor of the protein and appeared to work by controlling activity of another closely related protein called I-kappa B, which regulates NF-kappa activation.

"Using Res, we were able to promote apoptosis, a process that the body uses to kill cancer cells and other cells it needs to get rid of," Holmes-McNary said. "When Res
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
29-Jun-2000


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