Tag Archives: neurodegenerative disorder

Can we repair the brain? A UK research-USA industry collaboration

Collaborating transatlantically are UK based Center for Clinical Brain Sciences established as recently as 2004 and USA based Biogen. A landmark clinical study will observe three licensed drugs for neurological conditions. Late stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients will be monitored for two years says Prof. Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic. MRI scans will test for signs of MS disease progression. The research initiative is being funded by Biogen. The UK researchers will provide greater insight into the cell and biological processes behind progressive neurological diseases.

Over 35 million people are affected and the global cost for treatment and care is at 700 billion and rising.  Multiple sclerosis progresses fast.  Within 18 months of the first symptoms a person may become wheel chair bound. How does the brain cell wiring system get damaged so rapidly? The hope lies in a new discovery – stem cells can spontaneously repair damaged brain cells, by laying new myelin over nerve cells.  Treatment options being considered for research are by either activating existing stem cells in the brain or by transplanting stem cells to replace dead or dying brain cells. The UK research team has done the ground work for this research since their public is open to the advantages of stem cell research and understand the implications of using a patient’s own stem cells. This risky and super expensive research needs visionary and patient funding leaders. That is where Biogen comes in.  Naturally, such collaborations cannot be done in countries where the citizens do not understand or are opposed to the possibilities of stem cell research.

Dr. Siddharthan Chandran gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2013 describing his vision of hope for neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. See a description of his talk and more images by clicking here or at: http://blog.ted.com/2013/06/12/regenerating-hope-tedglobal-2013-with-siddharthan-chandran/

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Does Don gui or Chinese Angelica have weak estrogen like properties?

Don gui (Angelica sinensis ) or Chinese Angelica is one of the most popular herbs in traditional Chinese medicine for women’s gynecological presentations (Photo source). Europe began to use it’s extract in 1800s to treat gynecological issues.

The roots of Angelica sinensis

In Chinese medicine, Don gui is used in a combination with other herbs (Mayo clinic) for liver and spleen balance in relation to strengthening the blood and returning the woman’s body to it’s natural rhythm.

The Chinese Angelica plant

Dr. Li and his colleagues (2009) of the Center of Chinese Medicine of Hongkong have shown that replacing even a single herb from the traditional Chinese medicine combination of herbs in this treatment creates an inferior product, in terms of chemical and biological properties. This makes it very difficult to design a clinical trial to test the efficacy of this particular herb alone in humans. Dr Xiqin and colleagues (2002) of the Chinese academy of Sciences, Dalian, isolated and tested the plant’s extracts. Of the ten detectable components, they found ligustilide was best able to penetrate a biomembrane. They also detected ferulic acid, and3- butylidine-4, 5-dihydro-2(1,3H)-1-isobenzofuranol and seven others. Their mechanism of action alone and in combination remains to be investigated.

An inventor, Xia YongChao, of Gansu province, China has obtained a United States Patent for the ‘herbal composition for treatment of neurodegeneration and neuronal dysfunction (2008, patent) for methods to treat these diseases with herbal compositions BuNaGao (BNG), a cocktail of 14 ingredients and Don qui is one of the herbs. From this I would conclude that this inventor is confident that the Chinese angelica is effective in treating neurodegeneration and neuronal dysfunction, specifically head and spinal cord injuries, in certain proportions and the effects can be validated and have commercial value and so patent worthy. The Chinese government has given approval for the use of these methods after a peer reviewed process assessed the results of clinical trials in China from 1989-1994. Prior animal studies had revealed improved blood circulation, reduction of blood viscosity, and immune regulation. BNG is used to address ‘Qi’ deficiency, which I shall address another time. In brief, BNG treats through systemic nourishment and regulation. In 3 methods, BNG was composed of Donqui in 0.82-3.3g/Kg of body weight in combination with other herbs and the inventor gives examples of clinical trials for mental retardation in 133 children and found it to be significantly effective in comparison to control.

The Chinese angelica appears to be a versatile herb with an ability to control and regulate a woman’s gynecological condition and a human’s neuronal functions through ‘Qi’ features.  I have the deepest respect for the ancient Chinese medicinal scientists who discovered the power and reach of this herb and the others it interacts with to achieve it’s optimal effect. Makes me wonder how little we really understand and how much remains to be learned.

I would trust the results presented by this inventor, who has over 30 years of clinical trial experience.

For foreign language translation click here

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Crocus sativus L.

Crocus is native to Asia Minor and Southern Europe. Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of the flower, which flowers in autumn. Crocus sativus L. is a major agricultural crop, in northeastern Iran. Not only is saffron one of the most ancient spices of the old world, since ancient times, the genetics of this plant has remained unchanged. The labor intensive method of removing the stigmas from the saffron flowers has made the product extremely expensive. Hence, this product may be found in the market place adulterated (Negbi, 2004).

A field of Saffron and the Saffron harvesters

Photo curtsey from: The Penthouse Kitchen

Medicinal value of Saffron

Ancient medicine uses included antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, aphrodisiac, stimulant, cardiotonic, and stomachic (Zargari, 1993).  In modern medicine, crocus plant constituents are used as an exhilarant and curative of anxiety (Mirheidar, 1994; Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR, 1991). The orange-yellow coloring principle is crocin.

Saffron: Photo curtsey Vaishali Parekh

Pharmacological research has shown the extract of saffron to have antitumor effects (Rojhan , 1995), radical scavenger activities (Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH., 1995) and hypolipaemic effects (DerMarderosian, 2001). Research shows potential usefulness in neurodegenerative disorders connected with memory impairment (Abe and Saito, 2000). In addition, Kaempferol, an extract of saffron petals has potential as an anitdepressant (Hadizadeh, 2003; Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P. 2001).

There are other varieties of Crocus sp. which are highly valuable and economically important in the garden as flowering plants. However, the saffron producing European crop is in danger of extinction. Saffron production has decreased dramatically in many European countries and is already extinct in England and Germany. The world Saffron and Crocus collection makes available a wide variety of over twenty Crocus genotypes. It aims to slow down the genotypic erosion and hosts a database of Crocus species from various countries.

Recipe suggestions:

Visit Vaishali Parekh’s site which has a delicious Indian recipe using saffron.

Visit The Penthouse Kitchen site, caterers serving you recipes using saffron.

Experts on Crocus sativus :

1. Moshe Negbi 
Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea. Faculty of  Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran,  bBu-Ali Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Bu-Ali Square, Mashhad, Iran.

Corresponding author for reference on kaempferol: Email: fhadizadeh@yahoo.com


1. Negbi, Moshe. 2004.

Saffron. ‘Prelims’, Saffron, 1:1, 1 – 12 . Edited by Dr Roland Hardman; Harvood academic publishers; The Netherlands. ISBN 0-203-30366-0 Master e-book ISBN

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea 2003. Kaempferol from Saffron Petals. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : 251-252.

3) Zargari A. Medicinal Plants, 1993. Volume 4, Tehran University Press, Tehran : 574-578.

4) Mirheidar H. Maarif-e Ghiahi, Farhang-e. 1994. Eslami Press, Tehran : 341-5 6

5) Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR. 1991. Inhibitory effects of Nigella sativa and Crocus sativus on chemical carcinogenesis in mice. Nutr. Cancer (1991) 16: 67-72 .

6) Rojhan MS. 1995, Herbal drugs and treatment. Alavi Press, Tehran :87

7) Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH.. 1995. Saffron chemoprevention in biology and medicine. Cancer Biother. 10: 257-264.

8) DerMarderosian. 2001. A. Review of Natural Products, Facts and Comparison, Missouri :520.

9) Abe k and Saito H. 2000. Effects of saffron extract on learning behavior and long-term potentiation. Phytother. Res. 14: 149-152.

10) Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P.. 2001. Study of antidepressant effect of aqueous and ethanol extract of Crocus sativus in mice. Iranian J. Basic Sciences 4: 186-190.

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