Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cinnamon and Stem Cells

Researchers in Japan have recently discovered that a polyphenol found in cinnamon is able to improve wound healing by attracting mesenchymal stem cells to damaged tissue. The polyphenol in question is known as cinnamtannin B-1, which increased mobilisation of these cells by activating enzymes surrounding their membranes. Technically, the name for this is "chemotaxis", as much of cellular communication is through the use of chemicals. This study was performed on mice, and analysis of their blood showed that the stem cells were released from bone marrow in response to cinnamtannin B-1, while whole-body imaging showed that stem cells migrated to wounds treated with the polyphenol. 

Cinnamon sticks. Source: Sam Mugraby,
So how is this relevant to antiaging and longevity? Cinnamtannin B-1 was also able to improve wound healing in a mouse model of diabetes, an all-too common disease that is often described as accelerated aging. Wounds that fail to completely heal are an all-too common complication of diabetes, and unfortunately they frequently lead to gangrene and subsequent amputation. I know someone who has lost a toe to this, and it's not ever going to have an inspirational Oscar Pistorius without the murder ending. As anyone ages (biologically), wound healing ability declines, which is not a good look on anyone, so this study is relevant to everyone.
One important feature of this study is that it measured the effect of cinnamtannin on endogenous stem cells, meaning the stem cells produced by the mice' own bodies, not injected ones. Therefore, cinnamon extract in a herbal formula or cream may help to speed wound healing without requiring a stem cell clinic within affordable distance. Cinnamon extract is stocked in my college's dispensary, so as a widely available herbal medicine, research supporting its use is always relevant and welcome. It is commonly prescribed for blood sugar imbalances, as it may slow absorption of sugar into the blood, so it is already seen as a "diabetes/prediabetes herb". However, because of this study being on a specific substance in cinnamon, perhaps a standardised extract would be most helpful in wound healing. We already have these for ginkgo and St John's Wort, where an extract is formulated to contain a specific amount of one or more phytochemicals. It is possible to select plants that produce higher amounts of certain phytochemicals, and breed them to get the ideal levels. I would like to see trials on human participants, but this study is a good start.

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