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Scientists from the University of Bonn successfully researched a substance from the leaves of a widely used ornamental plant
Nature hides numerous active substances that are just waiting to be researched and discovered. Researchers at the University of Bonn were able to discover a promising active ingredient from the coral berry. A plant that is not exotic, but can often be found in domestic gardens in this country. During the study, the characteristic cramping of the bronchi was almost completely prevented in mice. The study appeared in the renowned journal "Science Translational Medicine".
The coral berry is not a particular beauty. That changes in the winter months: Then it forms striking bright red berries, which make it a popular ornamental plant during this time. However, the scientists involved in the study are interested in the plant for another reason: the leaves of the coral berry contain a substance with the cryptic name FR900359. It was believed that this could be used as a medicine against certain diseases. Nevertheless, Ardisia crenata (the botanical name) has so far largely been disregarded by science.
Researchers at the Institute of Physiology I, for Pharmaceutical Biology and for Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Bonn, together with asthma specialists from Nottingham (England), have now published a work that could change this. Because it documents that FR900359 appears to be extremely effective in preventing the bronchial muscles from contracting. Asthmatics regularly suffer from very pronounced cramps in the airways. These prevent enough air from entering the lungs. The resulting shortness of breath can be life-threatening.
More effective than common medication
The new active ingredient solves this spasm - and it appears to be more effective and long-term than the common asthma drug salbutamol. "However, so far we have only tested the substance on mice suffering from asthma," explains junior professor Dr. Daniela Wenzel. Wenzel conducts research at the Institute of Physiology I at the University of Bonn on respiratory diseases; she led the study.
The impulse to test FR900359 came from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology: There, scientists had succeeded in isolating and characterizing the active ingredient from leaves of the coral berry. "The substance inhibits a central group of signaling molecules in the body cells, the Gq proteins," explains Wenzel. Gq proteins play a key role in many processes in the body - including in the control of the bronchial muscles.
Usually, the interaction of different signaling pathways causes the airways to narrow. If you inhibit some of them, you can alleviate the cramping of the respiratory tract. However, it cannot be completely eliminated in patients with severe asthma. The signals converge on the Gq proteins and activate them. Only then is the bronchial spasm initiated. "If we inhibit the activation of Gq proteins with FR900359, we will achieve a far stronger effect," emphasizes Dr. Michaela Matthey from the Institute of Physiology I.
Study showed good results
This worked extremely well for the asthma-sick mice in the study. "We were able to prevent the animals from reacting to allergens such as house dust by narrowing the bronchial tubes," says Wenzel. In addition, there were hardly any side effects, since the active ingredient could be applied via the respiratory tract and thus only entered the bloodstream in small amounts. However, it is not said whether the substance is also suitable for use in humans. The scientists have already been able to show that human bronchial muscle cells in the culture dish and isolated human respiratory tract react similarly promisingly. However, further tests, which can take years, are required for use on living people.
Nevertheless, the work is already a great success. This is no coincidence: The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the research group "G-protein signaling cascades: new molecular probes and active ingredients for new pharmacological concepts" at the University of Bonn. The aim is to pharmaceutically influence central signaling molecules such as the Gq proteins and thus to find new therapeutic approaches for certain diseases. The pharmacists and physiologists at the university work closely together in the research network; the current study is a result of this cooperation. (sb, pm)
Publication: Michaela Matthey, Richard Roberts, Alexander Seidinger, Annika Simon, Ralf Schröder, Markus Kuschak, Suvi Annala, Gabriele M König, Christa E Müller, Ian P Hall, Evi Kostenis, Bernd K Fleischmann, Daniela Wenzel: Targeted inhibition of Gq signaling induces airway relaxation in mouse models of asthma; Science Translational Medicine; DOI: 10.1126 / scitranslmed.aag2288