A Plant Extract May Save the Brains of Diabetic Patients

Researchers from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia studied the beneficial effects that a plant extract may have for diabetic patients. They discovered that administration of the extract to diabetic rats has alleviated oxidative damage to their nervous system and decreased the inflammation levels in their brains. The discovery may open the way to new therapeutics for diabetic patients.

Diabetes mellitus is a common metabolic disorder, in which the body cannot respond normally to high sugar levels in the blood. Over time, the high sugar levels have several negative consequences on the afflicted person’s health, including dysfunction of the vascular and renal systems, and even cause blindness.

One of the most devastating effects of diabetes is damage to the nervous system, including the brain itself. Diabetes affects the brain’s structure and it’s neurochemistry, and causes behavioral abnormalities. Much of the damage to the neurons is being caused by the oxidative stress associated with diabetes. The neurons experience an overproduction of reactive oxygen species – molecules that cause damage to the cells – and depletion of antioxidants proteins that should counter that damage.

There’s evidence that the oxidative damage to the neurons may make it even more difficult for the cells to respond to high sugar levels in the blood. Therefore, it is clear that it is vital to suppress the production of reactive oxygen species within the cells in order to minimize diabetic complications.

Researchers from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia have recently studied the potential beneficial effects that mugwort (Artesimia L.) may have on diabetes. Mugwort is already being used for medicinal and nutritional use, as it is loaded with useful organic molecules such as essential oil and phenolics. The plant also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, and is thus being used widely for treating fever, gastric pain and other ailments. 

A plant of the Artimisia genus. From Wikipedia. Image in public domain.

The researchers explored the neuroprotective effects of Artemisia judaica extract in diabetic rats. They evaluated the oxidative state of neurons in the rats and the death of said neurons, while also studying the impact that the Artemisia judaica extract had on the progress of the disease.

The researchers discovered that administration of the extract in diabetic rats inhibited the oxidative damage to their neurons, when compared to the control group. The extract has additionally inhibited neuronal cell death in diabetric rats. The researchers postulate that the extract has restored the balance between pro-oxidant molecules and anti-oxidants, thus protecting the neurons from further damage. Finally, the rats treated with the extract experienced a significant decrease in the inflammation levels in their brains.

While much more research needs to be done in order to verify these results and ensure that they are repeated in human beings as well as rats, this research may open the way to new therapeutics that can alleviate some of the worst impacts diabetes has over patients’ health.

The researchers involved in this research were Gadah Albasher, Nada Aljarba, Nouf Al Sultan, Wedad S. Alqahtani, and Saad Alkahtani from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.

Original content by Nawartna

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