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A new (2008) UCLA AIDS Institute study has found that a chemical from the Astragalus root, frequently used in Chinese herbal therapy, may help in the fight against HIV and raises the possibility of slowing the aging process in other parts of our bodies.
Like other kinds of cells, immune cells lose the ability to divide as they age because a part of their chromosomes known as a telomere becomes progressively shorter with cell division. As a result, the cell changes in many ways, and its disease fighting ability is compromised.
But the new study has shown that the chemical, TAT2, can prevent or slow this progressive telomere shortening.
Telomere can be rebuilt with an enzyme called telomerase, and some people have suggested it might be possible to extend human life by boosting telomerase production-though this has never been tested.
Now, Rita Effrosa, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffep School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA AIDS Institute, has used a drug that boosts telomerase to enhance the immune response to viruses. Effros and her colleagues had previously inserted part of the telomerase gene into so-called killer T-cells-immune cells tha t fight infections including HIV–and found that the cells had stronger anti-viral activity than normal. However, such gene therapy is not a practical way of treating the millions of people infected with HIV; according to a report in NewScientist.com.
In the latest work, Effros took killer T-cells from HIV-infected people and exposed them to TAT2.Developed by Geron Corporation of Menlo Park, California, TAT2 is a drug extracted from the root of a plant called Astragalus that is thought to boost telomerase production and is traditionally used in Chinese medicine as a boost for the immune system.
She found that TAT2 reduced telomere shortening, increased cells’ ability to divide, and enhanced their antiviral activity. This effect was blocked when a second drug was used to inhibit telomerase, suggesting that TAT2 was indeed working through the enzyme-although the exact mechanism is not understood.
“This has the potential to be either HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), which is not tolerated well by some patients and is also costly,” Effros told the website.
Ultimately, Effros hopes that TAT2 could be used to supplement existing anti-retroviral drugs, by boosting the immune systems of people with HIV.
However, some safety concerns remain, as telomerase is known to be produced at higher than normal rates in cancer cells.
The good news is that when TAT2 was added to tumor cells it didn’t affect the amount of telomerase that was produced by the cells. Neither did it change the growth characteristics of immune cells that were incubated with a virus that can trigger cancer.
“We are fairly confident at this point that TAT2 won’t enhance cancer development,” Effros said, •although she cautioned that further trials were needed to confirm this.
DrugNatural is dedicated to providing you with natural health alternatives that promote resilience and long life. We feature a variety of well-balanced Immune support, Antioxidant Supplements, as well as Astragalus Supplements. Feel free to contact us today at 408-626-7640.