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Dubai :A biomolecule found in saffron may potentially help treat a common form of liver cancer, a new study has claimed.

Sorafenib, a drug that inhibits the growth of new blood vessels, remains the only available therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a common type of liver cancer, researchers said.

Thus, a novel approach against HCC is essential for a better therapeutic outcome, they said.

Researchers from the United Arab Emirates University examined the chemopreventive action of saffron’s main biomolecule, crocin, against chemically-induced liver cancer in rats, and to explore the mechanisms by which crocin employs its anti-tumour effects.

“We investigated the anti-cancer effect of crocin on an experimental carcinogenesis model of liver cancer by studying the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferation, pro-apoptotic activities of crocin in vivo,” the researchers said.

“In addition, we provided a network analysis of differentially expressed genes in tissues of animals pre-treated with crocin in comparison to induced-HCC animals’ tissues,” they said.

To further support the results, in vitro analysis was carried out.

The researchers assessed the effects of crocin on HepG2 cells – a perpetual cell line consisting of human liver carcinoma cells – by treating them with various concentrations of crocin. In addition, they studied the effects of crocin on cell cycle distribution of HepG2 cells.

The researchers demonstrated the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic properties of crocin when administrated in induced-HCC model.

Crocin exhibited anti-inflammatory properties where a protein complex NF-kB, among other inflammatory markers, was inhibited.

In vitro analysis confirmed crocin’s effect in HepG2 by arresting the cell division, inducing apoptosis and down regulating inflammation.

Network analysis identified NF-kB as a potential regulatory hub, and therefore, a candidate therapeutic drug target.

“Taken together, our findings introduce crocin as a candidate chemopreventive agent against HCC,” the researchers said.


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