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Grapefruit treats heart disease

GrapefruitPublished in Biochemical Journal, research has identified molecules occurring naturally in fruit that may play an important role in the future treatment of heart disease, which some people with diabetes might suffer from.

Flavanoid molecules found in citrus fruits, particularly grapefruit, have proven effective at reducing the inflammation which can lead to cardiovascular disease. These molecules may hold the key to the development of a new generation of anti-inflammatory drugs which are cheaper, easier to produce and less toxic than current therapies.

Many diseases of the circulatory system are linked to the improper activation of immune cells, which then stick to the so-called vascular endothelial cells (VECs) that line the blood vessels. This can begin a process of excessive inflammation through the local production of immune molecules, blocking the blood vessels and cause cardiovascular disease.

A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology identified a range of plant-derived small molecules that activate the natural defences in VECs, thereby inhibiting the processes triggered by immune cells that lead to excessive inflammation.

Dr Stephen Yarwood, a member of the research team at the University of Glasgow, said: “We were surprised to find that flavanoids isolated from citrus fruits were very effective at reprogramming the response of human endothelial cells to immune molecules by switching on genes that exert a natural ‘protective’ effect against inflammation. Our job now is to find out how flavanoids turn on these protective genes, which will pave the way for the development of future medicines to treat cardiovascular disease.”

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