Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that extracts from the Chinese herb Scutellaria baicalensis, contain powerful antioxidants that can significantly reduce cellular damage due to free radicals--highly reactive compounds that are generated during metabolism and which contribute to the normal wear and tear of the cell.
A rapid buildup of free radicals in cells may be an underlying cause of death in cardiac arrest patients who quickly regain a pulse.
"Restoring the regular heart beat in cardiac arrest patients does not mean the patient is out of the woods," says Terry Vanden Hoek, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, and one of the authors of the paper to appear in the October issue of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology. "Despite return of a pulse, most of these patients still die within minutes to hours."
Scientists think this is because during cardiac arrest, when oxygen and energy are cut off from the cells, wastes build up and become trapped. Once blood flow is restored, the cells switch into overdrive to rid themselves of accumulated toxic compounds. In this revved up state, cells produce an explosion of free radicals which can cause permanent cellular damage.
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E work by binding to free radicals and preventing them from doing damage to the cells. But vitamins C and E are slow to penetrate the cell membrane.
Vanden Hoek and his colleagues found out about baicalensis from Chun-Su Yuan,
MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesia & critical care and clinical
pharmacology at the University of Chicago with an interest in traditional
Chinese medicine. Yuan noticed that extracts from baicalensis contained high
concentrations of antioxidants whose molecular shape allowed them to slip
quickly into cells. The roots of the plant (known as Huang-Quin in Chinese and
wogon in Japanese) have been used for more than 1,000 years to treat allergic
and inflammatory diseases.
Contact: Sharon Parmet
University of Chicago Medical Center