A low dose of the natural antioxidant resveratrol can improve mitochondrial function and induce cellular reprogramming, researcher say in a new study.
Researchers believe the compound might be a treatment candidate for mitochondrial diseases.
The study reporting the finding, “Low dose resveratrol ameliorates mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction and enhances cellular reprogramming,” was published in the journal Mitochondrion.
Mitochondria exist in nearly all cells (except red blood cells) and create more than 90% of the energy the body needs. When they fail, as happens in mitochondrial diseases, cell injury and death follow. That can produce a range of symptoms, usually in the heart, brain, muscles, and lungs.
Several drugs and supplements with cell-supporting properties have been studied to treat mitochondrial diseases — including coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, creatine, and sodium dichloroacetate — but clinical trials have not provided any convincing support for their use as frontline treatments.
Oxidative stress from free radicals has been reported to induce mitochondrial dysfunction and cell damage, and resveratrol — an antioxidant (meaning it counteracts oxidative stress) — has been shown to be preventive. It also reportedly has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties, and has protective effects on the brain, heart, and circulatory system.
The compound is mainly found in peanuts, berries, and in the skin of grapes.
A research team investigated the effects of resveratrol in human skin cells (fibroblasts) from three patients with mitochondrial disease. In addition, skin cells from a healthy person were studied for possible toxic effects of resveratrol.
Treatment with a low dose of resveratrol improved all the cells’ mitochondrial function, compared to placebo treatment. It also increased the efficiency of cellular reprogramming . (Cellular reprogramming is converting a somatic cell type — such as skin cell — to an induced pluripotent stem cell. The stem cells then have the potential to transform into any other somatic cell in the body.)
The study showed that the lowest-used dose of resveratrol increased cell growth, while the highest dose dramatically induced cell death, indicating that the compound could have side effects in humans in high doses.
Further research is needed to determine whether a low dose of resveratrol could benefit other cell types, such as neurons and heart cells, the researchers said.
”But our results highlight the potential of resveratrol as a new therapeutic drug candidate for the treatment of mitochondrial diseases,” the authors wrote.
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