Scientists in China have extracted a medicinal compound from the natural herb, thunder god vine.The compund targets cell metabolism and might help tackle obesity.
Celastrol, extracted from thunder god vine, and artemisinin, developed from sweet wormwood, are among five herbal compounds listed by the scientific journal Cell to have the most potential to treat illnesses where no cure has been discovered, such as cancer.
The research team led by Zhang Xiaokun, professor with the College of Medicine at Xiamen University, found that celastrol from the thunder god vine could clear inflamed mitochondria from cells to alleviate inflammation.
Mitochondria plays an integral role in cell death, immunity and inflammation. By affecting inflamed mitochondria, celastrol can help control cell metabolism.
The team experimented on mice after feeding them high fat food but still there was no weight increase once they were given the compound.
The research paper was published in science journal Molecular Cell on April 6.
Zhang Xiaokun and his team would continue to research how celastrol regulates metabolism to explore new drugs, with low toxicity and high efficiency, to help people lose weight.
Thunder god vine is native to China though it also grows in a few other East Asian countries. The herb has been used for decades in traditional Chinese medicine for treating arthritis and autoimmune diseases.
However, the whole plant is extremely toxic. It has to undergo a lot of processing to reduce toxicity before being used in traditional medicine. The plant has also been used in clinical trials on AIDS treatment.