Scientists at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine have discovered a natural product found in the Amazon rainforest that helps block tissue destruction.
The researchers say that Progrado, an extract from a rainforest tree called Croton palanostigma, is potent in treating various joint, skin and gastrointestinal diseases, including osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
According to the researchers, the extract is an extremely powerful antioxidant that prevents the destruction of human cartilage by molecular s scissors called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). These enzymes cut collagen, which forms the backbone of the cartilage, into tiny pieces during states of inflammation and alter the fabric that holds tissues together, they say.
"This is an exciting finding," said Tariq Haqqi, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals of Cleveland and the lead investigator and senior author of the study.
"This is the first time a natural product has been shown to directly block these molecular scissors while showing potential to stimulate repair. This is a testament to the wound healing properties of this traditional medicine and the distinctive therapeutic opportunities that nature offers," he added.
Haqqi's research partner, Rainforest Nutritionals Inc., of Raleigh, N.C., develops innovative therapeutics from natural products and worked with the university on the discovery of Progrado.
Paul Bobrowski, co-author of the study and vice president of Rainforest Nutritionals, said Progrado's molecular targets are highly prized and could lead to a range of therapeutic innovations for conditions ranging from arthritis, irritable bowel disease and wrinkles based on their involvement in tissue injury/repair and aging.
"The publication of these results reflects the commitment that Rainforest Nutritionals has to scientific excellence and innovation using products derived from nature to promote health and an improved quality of life," Bobrowski said.
The study is published in the Journal of Inflammation.