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Natural Molecules and Their Impact on Health and in the Case of Pathologies: Neurodegenerative Diseases, Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases, Brain Function
Editor: Anne Vejux

Submission Deadline: 1 June 2024 (Status: Open)

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Anne Vejux      Email   |   Website
Team "Biochemistry of the Peroxisome, Inflammation and Lipid Metabolism", University of Bourgogne Franche-Comte, Dijon, France
Interests: lipids; cell death; oxidative stress; inflammation; neurodegenerative disease; feeding behaviour; age-related disease; biotherapies; biomarkers

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Food and natural molecules play an essential role in physiological processes and can also slow down the development of pathologies. One example is the Mediterranean diet, which provides monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and fibre. Polyphenols present in olive oil or in certain fruits have anti-oxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Nutrition and the study of natural molecules in food should have a place in the heart of research on physiopathology.

Two aspects are therefore important to study: 1) from a physiological point of view: Food/natural molecules effect on physiological system, and the mechanisms that are put in place following food intake. 2) From a pathological prevention point of view. As food intake, food-derived molecules or natural molecules can slow or prevent the development of pathologies. The targeted pathologies can be cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, age-related diseases (osteoporosis), or cancer.

Obtained data will allow a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the intake or consumption of natural molecules and may lead to new recommendations or therapeutic approaches.

Anne Vejux
Guest Editor


feed; health; aging; neurogenerative diseases; cancer; cardiovascular diseases; brain; physiopathology

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts will be thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. Please visit the Instruction for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted manuscripts should be well formatted in good English.

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  • Article
    ZhaoLi Wu, Jia Wang
    Discovery Medicine. 2024, 36(180): 199-208.

    Background: Lenvatinib is an important molecular target drug for the treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the application of molecular targeted therapies for HCC also faces some challenges. Cumulative evidence has also shown that curcumol is a potential anti-HCC drug. Curcumol can be used as a chemosensitizer to enhance the antitumor effect of chemotherapeutic drugs. The purpose of our study is to explore the effect of curcumol combined with lenvatinib on HCC.

    Methods: The antitumor effects of curcumol or/and lenvatinib on Huh 7 cells of the HCC cell line were examined using the cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) assay, colony formation assay, and transwell assay. For in vivo investigation, the effect on subcutaneous growth was also determined in nude mice. Changes in autophagy were determined by transmission electron microscope (TEM). Protein levels of apoptotic-related factors, epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related factors, autophagy factors, and N-cadherin and janus tyrosine kinase 2 (JAK2)/signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) were examined by Western blot.

    Results: In this study, we found that curcumol or lenvatinib could promote HCC cell apoptosis in vitro and inhibit the growth of HCC tumors in vivo (curcumol or lenvatinib group compared with control group, p < 0.05). While combination with curcumol treatment could improve the effect of lenvatinib on promoting cell apoptosis of HCC in vitro and inhibiting the growth of HCC tumors in vivo (combination group compared with lenvatinib group, p < 0.05). Curcumol combined with lenvatinib could induce more autolysosome formation detected by TEM. Mechanically, curcumol or lenvatinib could increase the expression of Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax), E-cadherin, UNC-51-like kinase 1 (ULK), and microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3B) II/I, whereas it reduced the expression of B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2), JAK2/STAT3 (curcumol or lenvatinib group compared with control group, p < 0.05). Furthermore, combined with curcumol treatment could increase the expression of Bax, E-cadherin, ULK, and LC3B II/I, whereas it reduced the expression of Bcl-2, N-cadherin, and JAK2/STAT3 (combination group compared with lenvatinib group, p < 0.05). These findings suggest that curcumol enhances the antitumor effect of lenvatinib on hepatocellular carcinoma cells.

    Conclusion: Curcumol enhances the antitumor effect of lenvatinib on hepatocellular carcinoma cells.

  • Article
    Deeba Shamim Jairajpuri, Taj Mohammad, Afzal Hussain, Mohamed F. Alajmi, Dharmendra Kumar Yadav, Md. Imtaiyaz Hassan
    Discovery Medicine. 2024, 36(180): 129-139.

    Background: TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) is an important serine/threonine kinase involved in inflammatory signaling pathways, influencing cellular processes such as proliferation, programmed cell death, autophagy, and immune response regulation. Dysregulation of TBK1 has been linked to cancer progression and neurodegenerative disorders, making it an attractive target for therapeutic development. This study aimed to identify potential TBK1 inhibitors using a structure-based virtual screening approach.

    Methods: We conducted a comprehensive screening of the ZINC database to identify compounds with high binding affinity for TBK1, employing molecular docking as the primary selection criterion. The top candidates were then subjected to extensive 200 ns molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to assess the conformational dynamics of TBK1 and the stability of the protein-ligand complexes, with a focus on ZINC02095133 and ZINC02130647.

    Results: The findings revealed that TBK1 forms stable complexes with ZINC02095133 and ZINC02130647, demonstrating consistent interactions throughout the MD simulations. This suggests that these compounds hold promise as potential lead molecules for future therapies targeting TBK1.

    Conclusions: This study identifies ZINC02095133 and ZINC02130647 as promising TBK1 inhibitors with therapeutic potential. However, further experimental validation and optimization are required to develop novel inhibitors for diseased conditions associated with TBK1 signaling. These findings pave the way for future investigations into the clinical utility of these compounds in combating TBK1-related pathologies.

  • Article
    Haohang Ruan, Xuan Zeng, Silan Shen
    Discovery Medicine. 2024, 36(180): 121-128.

    Background: Curcumin is a kind of natural hydrophobic polyphenol isolated from the stem of the Curcuma plant. To investigate regulatory curcumin effect on atherosclerotic endothelial cell injury.

    Methods: 30 male ApoE-/- mice were selected and divided into the control group, model group, and curcumin group (n = 10). The curcumin group was treated with curcumin by gavage. Body weight, atherosclerotic plaque area, plaque cap thickness, blood lipid levels, total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerol (TG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) content, nitric oxide (NO) content, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) content and circulating endothelial cell number of mice in each group were detected. Western blot detected NACHT, LRR, and receptor family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) and Asc-type amino acid transporter protein 1 (ASC) protein level in mice. Human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) were cultured to establish an atherosclerotic endothelial cell injury model in vivo. Cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) detected the cell viability of each group.

    Results: Body weight, atherosclerotic plaque area, plaque cap thickness, TC, TG, and LDL-C content of blood lipid levels of the curcumin group were obviously reduced as compared with the model group (p < 0.05), the content of NO and the number of circulating endothelial cells in curcumin group were obviously decreased (p < 0.05). The cell viability of the curcumin group was obviously higher than that of the model group (p < 0.05). The NO content of the curcumin group was lower than the model group (p < 0.05). The content of IL-1β and TNF-α in the curcumin group was obviously lower than in the model group (p < 0.05). Compared with the model group, the expression of receptor family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) and ASC protein in the curcumin group was decreased obviously (p < 0.05).

    Conclusion: Curcumin improves endothelial cell injury in atherosclerosis by inhibiting the expression of NLRP3 inflammatory bodies.

  • Article
    Kai Wang, Wen Xiao, Qi Zeng
    Discovery Medicine. 2024, 36(180): 71-81.

    Background: Bladder cancer is a malignant tumor of the urinary and reproductive tract that seriously threatens human health. It is urgent to develop new drugs for bladder cancer. This study aims to explore whether curcumin could inhibit bladder cancer and the potential mechanism.

    Methods: Firstly, network pharmacology was applied to explore the potential target of curcumin in bladder cancer. Among the potential target of curcumin on bladder cancer, the role of matrix metalloproteinase-14 (MMP14) was further explored by bioinformatic analysis and the expression of MMP14 was confirmed by immunohistochemistry staining. The effect of curcumin on bladder cancer was then studied using the cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) assay, clone formation assay, apoptosis assay, and Transwell assay. Finally, AKT, MMP14, E-cadherin and N-cadherin were analyzed by Western blot assay to confirm whether curcumin could inhibit bladder cancer by inhibiting invasion via AKT/MMP14 pathway.

    Results: In the present study, we found that the target of curcumin for bladder cancer includes signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), AKT, cyclin A2 (CCNA2), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), E1A binding protein p300 (EP300) and MMP14. MMP14 was highly expressed in bladder cancer than in normal tissues and was associated with a worse prognosis (p < 0.05). Curcumin could inhibit the proliferation and migration of bladder cancer cells (p < 0.05), while promoting cell apoptosis by inhibiting the AKT/MMP14 pathway (p < 0.05).

    Conclusion: Curcumin could inhibit bladder cancer by inhibiting invasion through the AKT/MMP14 pathway.

  • Article
    Liuqing Sheng, Xiaolong Yao, Jianfeng Ye, Zhizhong Wang, Yinchun Chen, Jun Li, Mingchang Li
    Discovery Medicine. 2023, 35(179): 1134-1146.

    Background: Inflammation and oxidative stress (OS) are major causes of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH)-induced early brain injury (EBI). Eriocitrin (EC), a flavonoid compound, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. However, there is still no relevant studies on the role of EC in SAH. Accordingly, this research aims to clarify the anti-OS and anti-inflammatory efficacy of EC in SAH.

    Method: Rat SAH model was established in vivo and administered with Eriocitrin (25 mg/kg). In vitro, BV2 cells were exposed to oxyhemoglobin (OxyHb) for 24 hours and pretreated with Eriocitrin (1 uM/mL, 2 uM/mL, 4 uM/mL) for 30 minutes. Water maze experiments and neurological function scores were conducted to assess cognitive and motor function. TdT-mediated dUTP Nick-End Labeling (TUNEL) staining was used to detect cortical cell apoptosis. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to detect the inflammatory factors and malondialdehyde (MDA), as well as the expression of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-px). Western blots were used to semi quantify nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), dual specificity phosphatase 14 (DUSP14) expression.

    Results: The findings suggest that EC (25 mg/kg) reduced SAH-induced central nervous system (CNS) damage, neuronal apoptosis, inflammatory reactions and OS. Regarding a mechanistic study, EC enhanced Nrf2 and NF-κB by increasing DUSP14 activation, thereby reducing the inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and IL-6. In addition, EC decreased MDA while markedly elevating SOD and enhancing GSH-px. Furthermore, specifically inhibiting DUSP14 expression via using protein-tyrosine-phosphatase (PTP) inhibitor IV, neutralized the protective action of EC and aggravated inflammation and OS. In vitro experiments of OxyHb-induced BV2 cells revealed that EC promoted Nrf2 while markedly suppressing NF-κB by increasing DUSP14 activation, thereby reducing the concentrations of the above inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, EC decreased MDA while evidently increasing SOD and GSH-px.

    Conclusion: In summary, this paper lays a theoretical grounding for EC treatment of SAH-induced inflammatory reactions and OS by regulating DUSP14.

  • Review
    Elisa Pannucci, Ludovica Spagnuolo, Laura De Gara, Luca Santi, Laura Dugo
    Discovery Medicine. 2023, 35(178): 715-732.

    Diabetes mellitus and its complications represent an extremely concerning health problem across the world. The extraordinary worldwide increase of the disease incidence highlights a challenging need for the development of new, safe, effective, and affordable therapeutic approaches. This complex disease, characterized by high blood sugar levels, involves numerous pathogenic processes in its etiology. Even though the molecular mechanisms behind are not clear, it is broadly recognized that oxidative stress, the accumulation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and inflammation are implicated in the development, the progression and the related complications of the disease. In this regard, phenolic compounds represent a valuable therapeutic perspective. Thus, this review is focused on the role of phenolic compounds in diabetes-related oxidative stress, AGEs production and inflammation. In particular, we summarized recent results of in vitro and in vivo studies concerning antioxidant and antiglycative properties of phenolic compounds and also the modulation of activity on inflammation and inflammation-related pathways relevant in diabetes, namely arachidonic acid, nuclear factor-κB, mitogen-activated protein kinases and phosphatidylinositol 3‑kinase/protein kinase B signaling pathways, were described. Highlighting thus the anti-diabetic potential of phenolic compounds in the development of preventive or therapeutic strategies for the management of diabetes and its related complications.

  • Article
    Mikayel Ginovyan, Anush Babayan, Anahit Shirvanyan, Alvard Minasyan, Meri Qocharyan, Barbara Kusznierewicz, Izabela Koss-Mikołajczyk, Nikolay Avtandilyan, Anne Vejux, Agnieszka Bartoszek, Naira Sahakyan
    Discovery Medicine. 2023, 35(177): 590-611.

    Background: Herbal medicinal products containing Vaccinium myrtillus L. (bilberry) fruits and fruit extracts are widely available in the market. Although bilberry leaves and stems are considered as bio-waste, they contain much higher levels of phenolic compounds than fruits. The study aimed to investigate the antimicrobial and anticancer potential of aerial part extracts from Vaccinium myrtillus L. (V. myrtillus, VM) plants harvested at high altitudes in Armenian landscape and characterize the bioactive phytochemicals.

    Material and Methods: For evaluation of antioxidant properties, chemical-based tests (total phenolic and flavonoid content, and antiradical activity in 2,2'-azino-bis-(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) tests) and cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) assay were applied. Genotoxicity and anticancer properties of the extract alone and in combination with fluorouracil were explored in human cancer and normal cell lines. Antibacterial properties of V. myrtillus extract alone and in combination with antibiotics, as well as their effect on proton-flux rate through cell membrane were explored on bacterial strains. The characterization of active phytochemicals was done using Liquid Chromatography-Quadrupole-Orbitrap High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (LC-Q-Orbitrap HRMS).

    Results: The V. myrtillus aerial part extract demonstrated promising antioxidant properties in all tests. The selective cytotoxic activity was documented against various cancer cell lines (human colon adenocarcinoma (HT29), human breast cancer (MCF-7) and human cervical carcinoma (HeLa)), while it did not inhibit the growth of tested human normal primary renal mixed epithelial cells (HREC) even at 10-fold higher concentrations. The extract did not have genotoxic properties in comet assay making it a potential source for the development of anticancer preparations. The investigated extract did not directly inhibit the growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhimurium) strains at up to 1 mg/mL concentration. However, V. myrtillus extract enhanced the kanamycin intake and increased its efficiency against E. coli strain. The phytochemical characterization of the extract showed the presence of different groups of phenolics.

    Conclusions: Based on obtained data, we suggest the aerial parts of the V. myrtillus plant as an alternative source of bioactive natural products for food supplements, nutraceuticals, functional foods and medicine.

  • Review
    Undurti Narasimha Das
    Discovery Medicine. 2023, 35(177): 451-457.

    Seasonal variation in blood pressure that is higher in winter and lower in summer has been attributed to several factors that include changes in the activity of autonomic nervous system, vasopressin and expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8), a non-selective Ca2+-permeable cationic channel, serves as a molecular transducer to sense cold by the somatosensory system. TRPM8 is sensitive to protein kinase C (PKC) and phosphatidyl inositol-4,5-biphosphate [PI(4,5)P2] suggesting that TRPM8 is stimulated by phospholipase C (PLC)-coupled receptors. Activated PLC inhibits TRPM8 by reducing cellular PI(4,5)P2 levels and by activating PKC via diacyl glycerol. Bradykinin and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which are pro-inflammatory molecules, reduce the responses to cold, suggesting that phospholipase A2 (PLA2), which releases polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the precursors of various eicosanoids, from the cell membrane lipid pool can modulate the function of TRPM8. TRPM8 functions as a nociceptor and modulates immune response. These and other studies indicate that cold-induced activation of transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) plays a role in the pathobiology of hypertension, preeclampsia and in the regulation of inflammation and immunity.

  • Article
    Jiajing Zhou, Lanyue Zhang, Jifeng Yan, Aihua Hou, Wenchao Sui, Meiling Sun
    Discovery Medicine. 2023, 35(176): 251-263.

    Background: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are characterized by an ability for unlimited proliferation and efficiency of self-renewal. The targeting of lung CSCs (LCSCs)-related signaling pathways represent a promising therapeutic strategy for treatment of lung cancer. Ferroptosis a potential strategy for LCSCs treatment, and curcumin cloud induce ferroptosis. In this study, we aimed to observe the effects of curcumin on LCSCs via ferroptosis-related pathways.

    Methods: In this study, A549 cluster of differentiation (CD)133+ and A549 CD133 cells were isolated using magnetic bead-based separation. Colony formation and sphere formation assays, as well as cells injection in non-obese diabetes/severe combined immune deficiency (NOD/SCID) mice, were used to analyze the tumorigenic ability of cells differentially expressing CD133. A549 CD133+ cells were treated with different doses of curcumin (0, 10, 20, 40, 80 μM). Cell viability, glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) and ferroptosis suppressor protein 1 (FSP1) expressions were measured. The 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) of curcumin, two ferroptosis inducers, inhibitor of GPX4 (RSL3) and inhibitor of FSP1 (iFSP1), and a ferroptosis inhibitor, ferrostatin-1 (Fer-1), were used to investigate the mechanism underlying the effect of curcumin on ferroptosis in A549 CD133+ cells.

    Results: A549 CD133+ cells had greater tumorigenic ability than A549 cells. Curcumin treatment suppressed the expressions of GPX4 (glutathione peroxidase 4) and FSP1 in A549 CD133+ cells, thereby inducing ferroptosis. RSL3 and iFSP1 respectively suppressed the GSH (glutathione)-GPX4 and FSP1 (ferroptosis suppressor protein 1)-CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10)-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) pathways in A549 CD133+ cells. However, the roles of curcumin were blocked by Fer-1 treatment.

    Conclusions: In this study, curcumin induced ferroptosis through inhibiting the GSH-GPX4 and FSP1-CoQ10-NADH pathways in A549 CD133+ cells, resulting in the inhibition of their self-renewal potential.