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Moringa against cancer

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Can Moringa Leaves Protect Against Cancer?

In April 2014, the article “Soluble Extract from Moringa oleifera Leaves with a New Anticancer Activity” appeared in the online journal PLOS ONE. The article is freely available online at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0095492

The unparalleled properties of Moringa as a food or natural dietary supplement are undisputed. The high and effective content of antioxidants can also be considered recognized. Now Moringa is mentioned in connection with anticancer activity and that too in a scientific study. This plant is becoming more and more fascinating.

So let’s take a closer look at the study. Our article is intended for the interested layman and written in such a way that not only experts can understand it.

Medical research

Not everything published on the Internet is scientifically viable. Scientific articles are usually published in printed expensive journals. The articles are peer-reviewed, meaning that before an article goes to print, it is proofread and commented on by a professional colleague, or several. This ensures that the quality of the articles is high and the statements are robust.

PLOS ONE is an international online journal published by the Public Library of Science. The aim of publishing on the Internet is to keep the time from manuscript to publication as short as possible. As with the printed journals, the articles are peer-reviewed.

So we can assume that the methods, presentation and results are meaningful.

The author, cell biologist Dr. Il Lae Jung, works for the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, KAERI, a renowned research institute in South Korea.

All experiments have been carried out in vitro, i.e. in a test tube, so to speak. Biologists distinguish between in-vitro and in-vivo conditions. In-vivo studies take place in living organisms. This includes animal experiments, which the author did not perform.

Plant Research

What exactly was investigated in the study on the effect of Moringa against cancer?

The author approaches his question through various experiments. For this purpose, he uses a specific lung cancer cell line, A549.

1. Moringa oleifera leaf extracts are brought together with lung cancer cells in different concentrations.

Result: In increasing amounts of Moringa extracts, growth is inhibited accordingly; above a certain concentration, complete inhibition occurs. Under the microscope, the author writes, the cancer cells show a typical apoptotic form. Apoptosis is the self-programmed death of a cell.

If it is indeed to be programmed cell death, it means, after all, that there must be an effect at the level of gene expression. In other words, moringa must act on such genes in the cancer cells that initiate apoptosis.

Moringa Leaf

2. study of the expression of such genes responsible for apoptosis.

Expression of genes can be thought of as switches: An environmental influence (such as the administration of moringa) acts on the cell. The switch causes the organism to respond. So, in our case, we ask the question: can the Moringa extract activate exactly such switches that cause the cell death of the cancer cells?

In cancer cells there are genes that, when activated, induce cell death. These genes are known for the lung cancer cells mentioned above. Dr. Jung has now looked at precisely these genes and investigated how they behave under the influence of moringa extract.

Result: indeed, such genes are activated in the lung cancer cells, which cause suicide of the cancer cells.

The author conducted further studies supporting this finding.

3. comparison of the effect of moringa extract on lung cancer cells and normal body cells.

Of course, an important question that needs to be clarified at the end is whether the effect of Moringa extract is specific to cancer cells. After all, nothing would be gained if the growth of normal body cells were blocked in the same way as that of cancer cells.

Dr. Jung now compared the effect of Moringa extract on lung cancer cells on the one hand and on the other hand on cells grown from the kidneys of a monkey species. These are so-called Vero cells. They are also used to test toxins from various bacteria (e.g. E. coli, Shigella etc.).

Result: Body cells are significantly less inhibited in growth than cancer cells. The amount of moringa extract that already causes almost complete inhibition of lung cancer cell growth, inhibits the growth of body cells to 25%. So there is a clear difference in the effect of Moringa extract on body cells and cancer cells.

How should we evaluate the study on Moringa and cancer?
Conclusion: A solid work, which indeed shows that a Moringa extract drives the tested lung cancer cells to suicide, while the body cells are spared.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Does a simple aqueous Moringa extract now replace costly chemotherapies?

Woman surprised

The present study is not yet sufficient to make such statements. We asked Dr. Jung about this and he himself said that in order to be able to make further statements, in-vivo studies are needed, i.e. first of all animal studies. And then, finally, clinical studies in humans are needed.

To propagate Moringa as a remedy against cancer on the basis of these results would be negligent. But the results are certainly remarkable.

(Author: Dr. rer. nat. H. Heinrichs)

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