University of Kentucky researchers have found that grape seed extract can effectively kill leukemia cancer cells.
Within 24 hours, 76 percent of leukemia cells had died after being exposed to the extract, the study found.
"These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers," said the study's lead author, Xianglin Shi, Ph.D., professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky.
"What everyone seeks is an agent that has an effect on cancer cells but leaves normal cells alone, and this shows that grape seed extract fits into this category," he added.
During the study, the researchers also looked at the cell signaling pathway associated with use of grape seed extract that led to cell death, or apoptosis.
They found that the extract activates JNK, a protein that regulates the apoptotic pathway.
Shi said although the findings are promising but it is too early to say this is chemo-protective.
With the help of a commercially available grape seed extract, Shi exposed leukemia cells to the extract in different doses and found the marked effect in causing apoptosis in these cells at one of the higher doses.
They also discovered that the extract does not affect normal cells.
The researchers then used pharmacologic and genetic approaches to determine how the extract induced apoptosis. They found that the extract strongly activated the JNK pathway, which then led to up-regulation of Cip/p21, which controls the cell cycle.
The findings are published Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.