Finding Key Ingredients for Cholesterol Control in Hawthorn Leaves

Greg Howard
11th February, 2024

Finding Key Ingredients for Cholesterol Control in Hawthorn Leaves

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Recent research explored how two plant species, Chinese hawthorn leaf (CHL) and Malus doumeri leaf (MDL), both used as tea substitutes, differ in their chemical makeup and how they affect fat levels in the liver. CHL, traditionally recognized for its ability to lower lipid levels, was surprisingly found to be mixed with MDL because they look similar and are often sold under similar names. Scientists compared CHL and MDL by looking at their phytochemical profiles—basically a chemical fingerprint of the plants—and tested their effects on liver cells in a laboratory setting. They discovered that CHL was better at reducing the build-up of lipids caused by free fatty acids in HepG2 cells, a type of liver cell, compared to MDL. Using a technique called molecular networking, researchers identified a total of 68 different components in CHL and 67 in MDL, with 33 of these being common to both. To pinpoint which of these components were actually working to lower lipids, they employed an advanced machine learning tool known as the extreme gradient boosting (XGBoost) algorithm, which is known for its high performance. Once the algorithm had done its job, its results were analyzed further using another method, the Shapley additive explanations (SHAP), to make sense of which specific components were contributing to the lipid-lowering effect. This analysis highlighted 12 components in CHL and 8 in MDL that acted as inhibitors of hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels in the blood). Interestingly, only four of these effective components were common to both plant species. Subsequent testing on the identified components and their combinations confirmed that they indeed possessed the capacity to combat high lipid levels. The study concludes by underlining the practicality of using machine learning methods to sift through plant components for those related to specific health benefits. Moreover, it makes clear that even closely related plant species may harbor different elements beneficial to health, illustrating the complexity of nature’s pharmacopeia. The research was conducted by scientists associated with the School of Pharmacy at Yantai University in China.

HealthBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) An Interpretable Screening Approach Derived Through XGBoost Regression for the Discovery of Hypolipidemic Contributors in Chinese Hawthorn Leaf and its Counterfeit Malus Doumeri Leaf.

Published 10th February, 2024

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