Our cells undergo a lot of wear and tear in this fallen world of infection, toxins, and inflammation. The proteins take a beating, and sometimes they end up getting unfolded, misfolded, or stuck together. These dysfunctional proteins need to be cleaned up and cleaned out if the cells are going to continue working properly. When the dysfunctional proteins build up, we sometimes see diseases like hepatitis and Alzheimer’s beside simple aging changes. Researchers are on the hunt for chemicals that can prevent or treat this misfolding and its related diseases. This laboratory study looks at the ability of quercetin to do exactly this.
The researchers were looking through various therapies used in traditional Chinese medicine. They found that an extract from Tartary buckwheat, an herb whose grain is used in various ways in Asia, could alter various metabolic functions in a liver cell line. After separating out the different components of Tartary buckwheat, they found that quercetin was the single component that accomplished the endpoint of inducing autophagy and aggrephagy.
Autophagy, in its simplest terms, means to eat oneself. In biology, it refers to the ability of cells to identify and then internally digest proteins which no longer function correctly in order to prevent their accumulation and disease. Aggrephagy is a subset of autophagy in that it referrers to the digestion of proteins stuck to eat other. Such aggregated proteins are triggers for diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Beyond seeing actual increases in the autophagosomes, the cell organelle that carries out the autophagy function, they also looked at changes in the expression of mTORC1. This gene when activated inhibits autophagy. By inhibiting mTORC1, quercetin appears to inhibit the inhibitor of autophagy, thus increasing autophagy.
Other studies have looked at the effects of quercetin on mTORC1 and autophagy with murky results. This study was much clearer in its proof that quercetin did trigger autophagy in the cell line. Now researchers need to look at whether quercetin can produce clinically significant benefits in actual people rather than just a cell line. We in functional medicine look forward to further studies as we continue to use quercetin for other reasons like mast cell control and everyday allergy symptoms. Helping patients live healthier more abundant lives means applying the best of the natural therapies across their multiple potential uses revealed by basic research.
Sumiko Ikari, Qiang Yang, Shiou-Ling Lu, Yuancai Liu, Feike Hao, Guoqiang Tong, Shiguang Lu, Takeshi Noda. Quercetin in Tartary Buckwheat Induces Autophagy against Protein Aggregations. Antioxidants, 2021; 10 (8): 1217 DOI: 10.3390/antiox10081217
Thanks to Science Daily:
Osaka University. “The good herb: Buckwheat liquor helps cells clean house.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/08/210816102545.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.