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A mixture of herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine may be able to reduce inflammation by adding and removing epigenetic marks on DNA, suggests a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This alternative medicinal mixture, termed “Wutou decoction”, consists of six different herbs that have been widely used in the traditional Chinese medicine community to alleviate arthritis and other diseases. Now, researchers believe it may have an effect on epigenetic mechanisms known as DNA methylation and histone modifications, which can control gene expression.
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Complementary and alternative medicine has been around for centuries, but, its supposed benefits often draw in skepticism. Although further research is needed to solidify these claims, a recent study sheds some light on the potential of a Chinese herb mixture to alleviate arthritis by triggering epigenetic mechanisms. The mixture contains crude herbs, including red and white peony roots, licorice root, and monkshood mother root.

Researchers induced arthritis in female rats and assessed the epigenetic impact of the Wutou decoction. Using EpiGentek’s MethylFlash Methylated DNA Quantification Kit, the researchers measured global DNA methylation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

By examining the proteins involved in DNA methylation, genomic stabilization, and cellular repair, the researchers hope to determine which epigenetic modifications affect liver function. The team also investigated C/EBP-β, which helps regulate many liver cell-specific genes, and PCNA, which is involved in DNA replication and cell cycle regulation. Focusing on all these areas, the researchers hoped to first determine the epigenetic impact of PTU on liver tissue and then assess the effectiveness of curcumin on the PTU-induced changes.

Their results confirmed PTU’s ability to inhibit thyroid hormone production and verified its heptotoxicity (or chemically-driven liver damage). It also demonstrated that hormone reduction and liver injury coincided with upregulation in the expression of DNMT1, DNMT3a, DNMT3b, MBD4, MeCP2, p53, and Gadd45a, as well as a down-regulation of PCNA and C/EBP-β. However, when curcumin was administration alongside PTU, these epigenetic parameters, except for MBD4, were reduced together with a decrease in oxidative stress.

According to the report, “Co-administration of curcumin with PTU resulted in restoration of hepatic cell population and histoarchitecture. The protective effect of curcumin to PTU-induced hepatotoxicity is attributed to its antioxidative properties.”

While further research is needed to determine the exact molecular mechanisms involved here. The study does provide evidence that curcumin may protect the liver from injury caused by the anti-thyroid drug.  Furthermore, it highlights the considerable value that curcumin has as a potential therapeutic, especially for the treatment of PTU-induced hepatotoxicity.

Bailey Kirkpatrick

Source: Suresh Kumar Bunker et al. (2018) Curcumin restores hepatic epigenetic changes in propylthiouracil(PTU)- Induced hypothyroid male rats: A study on DNMTs, MBDs, GADD45a, C/EBP-β and PCNA.  Food and Chemical Toxicololgy.  123:169-180.

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