Understanding How Herbal Extracts Help Prevent Heart Damage from Radiation

Jim Crocker
25th May, 2024

Understanding How Herbal Extracts Help Prevent Heart Damage from Radiation

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Gansu University of Chinese Medicine found that a TCM compound, RAS-RA, significantly reduced heart fibrosis in rats exposed to X-rays
  • The study identified the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway as crucial for RAS-RA's anti-fibrosis effects, improving heart function by regulating cell growth and survival
  • RAS-RA also decreased inflammation and improved mitochondrial structure, enhancing overall heart health and function
Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. With advancements in radiation therapy (RT) significantly increasing the number of cancer survivors, the risk of radiation-induced cardiovascular disease (RICD) is a growing concern[2]. One of the severe complications of RICD is radiation-induced myocardial fibrosis (RIMF), a condition characterized by excessive deposition of fibrous tissue in the heart, which can lead to cardiac dysfunction and remodeling. A recent study conducted by researchers at Gansu University of Chinese Medicine explored the therapeutic efficacy of a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) compound preparation, Radix Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels and Radix Astragalus mongholicus Bunge ultrafiltration extract (RAS-RA), in treating RIMF[1]. Prior studies have highlighted the role of inflammation in myocardial fibrosis and the potential of TCM in regulating inflammatory responses. However, the specific effects of RAS-RA on RIMF had not been extensively studied until now. The study employed a comprehensive approach to elucidate the mechanisms by which RAS-RA exerts its therapeutic effects on RIMF. Initially, the researchers constructed a prediction network to describe the relationship between RAS-RA and RIMF using data from various databases. Functional enrichment analyses were then conducted to identify the functions and pathways associated with potential RIMF targets for RAS-RA. In vivo experiments were performed to verify these findings. Small animal ultrasound examinations, H&E staining, Masson staining, transmission electron microscopy, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), Western blotting, immunohistochemical methods, and biochemical assays were employed to investigate the key anti-RIMF pathways influenced by RAS-RA. The results revealed that RAS-RA significantly mitigated myocardial fibrosis and improved cardiac function in rats exposed to X-rays. One of the critical findings of the study was the identification of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway as a significant mediator of the anti-fibrosis effects of RAS-RA. This pathway is involved in cell growth, proliferation, and survival, and its dysregulation has been implicated in various cardiovascular diseases. The study demonstrated that RAS-RA increased the levels of PI3K, AKT, and mTOR proteins in cardiac tissues while downregulating markers of fibrosis such as α-SMA, Collagen I, and Collagen III. The anti-inflammatory properties of RAS-RA were also highlighted, as the treatment led to a decrease in the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-1β. This is consistent with previous findings that inflammation plays a crucial role in myocardial fibrosis[3]. Furthermore, the study showed that RAS-RA improved the mitochondrial structure of the heart, which is essential for maintaining energy production and cardiac function[4]. The therapeutic effects of RAS-RA extended beyond the heart, as the treatment also improved liver and kidney functions and reduced pathological damage in these organs. This holistic benefit is particularly important for cancer survivors who often suffer from multi-organ complications due to radiation therapy. In summary, the study conducted by Gansu University of Chinese Medicine demonstrated that RAS-RA is a potential therapeutic agent for alleviating radiation-induced myocardial fibrosis. By suppressing collagen deposition and inflammatory responses through the inhibition of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, RAS-RA effectively mitigated cardiac fibrosis and improved overall cardiac function. These findings pave the way for further research into the use of TCM in treating radiation-induced cardiovascular complications, offering hope for improved quality of life for cancer survivors.



Main Study

1) Elucidating the mechanism of action of Radix Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels and Radix Astragalus mongholicus Bunge ultrafiltration extract on radiation-induced myocardial fibrosis based on network pharmacology and experimental research.

Published 22nd May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Ionizing radiation and heart risks.


3) IL-6 trans-signalling contributes to aldosterone-induced cardiac fibrosis.


4) Effect of Aging on Mitochondrial Energetics in the Human Atria.


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