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Researchers Demonstrate Green Tea Compound Is Effective In Treating Genetic Disorder And Two Types Of Tumors

August 15, 2011

A compound found in green tea shows great promise for the development of drugs to treat two types of tumors and a deadly congenital disease.  The discovery is the result of research led by Principal Investigator, Dr. Thomas Smith at The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and his colleagues at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Their findings are published in the recent article, “Green Tea Polyphenols Control Dysregulated Glutamate Dehydrogenase In Transgenic Mice By Hijacking The ADP Activation Site” in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) is found in all living organisms and is responsible for the digestion of amino acids. In animals, GDH is controlled by a complex network of metabolites. For decades it was not clear why animals required such regulation but other kingdoms did not.  This was partially answered by the Stanley group’s finding that a deadly congenital disease, hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia (HHS), is caused by the loss of some of this regulation. In this disorder, patients (typically children) respond to the consumption of protein by over secreting insulin, becoming severely hypoglycemic, often leading to death. 

Using atomic structures to understand the differences between animals and plants, Dr. Smith and his colleagues discovered that two compounds found naturally in green tea are able to compensate for this genetic disorder by turning off GDH in isolated and when the green tea compounds were administered orally. The Smith lab also used X-ray crystallography to determine the atomic structure of these green tea compounds bound to the enzyme. With this atomic information, they hope to be able to modify these natural compounds to design and develop better drugs.

Interestingly, two other research groups have validated and extended these findings to demonstrate that blocking GDH with green tea is very effective at killing two different kinds of tumors; glioblastomas, an aggressive type of brain tumor, and tuberous sclerosis complex disorder, a genetic disease that causes non-malignant tumors to grow on a number of organs.

“While these compounds from green tea are extremely safe and consumed by millions every day, they have a number of properties that make them difficult to use as actual drugs. Nevertheless, our ongoing collaboration with the Stanley lab shows that there are natural compounds from plants that can control this deadly disorder and, with the atomic structure in hand, can be used as a starting point for further drug design.”

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research at the Danforth Center will feed the hungry and improve human health, preserve and renew the environment, and enhance the St. Louis region and Missouri as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants and contract revenue from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations.

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