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Biology: Magnolia for a healthier heart

Nature Communications

April 15, 2015

A naturally-occurring compound derived from the bark of the magnolia tree, called honokiol, could prove useful in the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy and many other conditions, suggests a study on mice published in Nature Communications.

Cardiac hypertrophy, which occurs when the ventricles of the heart thicken, can lead to heart failure. Honokiol, which is used in traditional Asian medicine, is already known to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-cancer and neuroprotective effects.

Using mouse models, Mahesh Gupta and colleagues now show that treatment with honokiol can ease symptoms in mice that already have cardiac hypertrophy and also protect vulnerable mice from developing the condition in the first place. The authors show that the compound works by boosting levels of a protein called Sirt3 and they note that this is the first known example of a drug that activates Sirt3. Sirt3 is known to regulate aspects of mitochondrial function and the authors hope that honokiol may prove useful in the treatment of diseases linked to mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms7656

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