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Purple Periwinkles Battle Inflammatory Diseases

Posted May 03 2010 4:29pm

A widely and safely used plant extract acts as a novel anti-inflammatory agent that may one day be used for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, as well as other inflammatory conditions. There is an urgent need for new therapies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as COPD, otitis media (ear infection), and atherosclerosis (chronic inflammation in the walls of arteries), because the most effective and commonly used agents – steroids – often cause serious side effects, such as liver damage, which prevent long-term use.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center were the first to find that vinpocetine, a natural product derived from the periwinkle plant, acts as a potent anti-inflammatory agent when tested in a mouse model of lung inflammation, as well as several other types of human cells. Results of the study show that vinpocetine greatly reduces inflammation, and, unlike steroids, does not cause severe side effects.

“What is extremely exciting and promising about these findings is vinpocetine’s excellent safety profile,” said Chen Yan, Ph.D., associate professor within the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Medical Center and a senior author of the study. “Previously, most drugs tested in this area have failed, not because of a lack of efficacy, but because of safety issues. We’re very encouraged by these results and believe vinpocetine has great potential for the treatment of COPD and other inflammatory diseases.”

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