Artemisinin

Artemisinin

see Wormwood herb
BACKGROUND: Artemisinin is a chemical com-
pound extracted from the wormwood plant, Artemi-
sia annua L. It has been shown to selectively kill
cancer cells in vitro and retard the growth of im-
planted fibrosarcoma tumors in rats. In the present
research, we investigated its mechanism of cytotox-
icity to cancer cells. MATERIALS AND METH-
ODS: Molt-4 cells, in complete RPMI-1640 medium,
were first incubated with 12 microM of human
holotransferrin at 37 degrees C in a humid atmo-
sphere of 5% C02 for one hour. This enhanced the
iron supply to the cells. The cells were then pelleted
and transferred to a complete RPMI-1640 containing
200 microM of an analog dihydroartemisinin (DHA)
and incubation was started (0 h). In addition, some
culture samples were treated with holotransferrin
alone and some (controls) were assayed without
neither holotransferrin nor DHA treatment. Cells
were counted and DNA diffusion assay was used to
evaluate apoptosis and necrosis in each sample at 0 h
and at 1, 2, 4 and 8 h of incubation. RESULTS: DHA
treatment significantly decreased cell counts and
increased the proportion of apoptosis in cancer cells
compared to controls (chi2=4.5, df=l, p<0.035).
Addition of holotransferrin significantly further
decreased cell counts (chi2=4.5, df=l, p<0.035) and
increased apoptosis (chi2=4.5, df=l, p<0.035). No
necrotic cells were observed. CONCLUSION: This
rapid induction of apoptosis in cancer cells after
treatment with DHA indicates that artemisinin and its
analogs may be inexpensive and effective cancer
agents.

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