BioPerspectives

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Mar 21, 2008

Grape Expectations

  • The compound known as resveratrol has a cult following that is likely only going to grow with the latest discoveries of how it functions. Implicated in processes as diverse as stimulating pathways implicated in life extension (1), solving the French paradox (2), inhibiting nucleotide synthesis via ribonucleotide reductase (3), and serving as an anti-oxidant (4), an understanding of resveratrols’s physiological effects has trailed knowledge of its molecular mechanisms of action. Now, this is beginning to change. Matt Whiteman, a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Biomedical Science at Peninsula Medical School and principal investigator of a new research effort on this interesting compound found in grape skins, reported in the April, 2008 edition of the journal “Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism” that resveratrol actually helps protect blood vessels in diabetics from the damage brought about by the high levels of glucose they often contain. Unprotected mitochondria, when exposed to glucose in elevated concentrations found in diabetics, “leak” electrons, creating free radicals that are damaging to cellular molecules. Known complications of diabetes, such as nephropathy (kidney disease), heart disease, and retinopathy (blindness) can arise in this manner. Resveratrol appears to protect against damage by stimulating production of enzymes that “mop up” these damaging free radicals and thus, may be of benefit to diabetics.

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