The Chinese medication, xin-mai-jia (XMJ), has been shown in an in vivo study to be a potential treatment option for atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a multi-step arterial disease that starts with chronic inflammation and can progress to plaque rupture and blood clot formation that can block blood vessels. Nitric oxide (NO) is an important compound that helps to keep the vascular system running correctly. NO is produced by the endothelial NO synthase system (eNOS).
For eNOS to function correctly is must have tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), which allows the conversion of L-arginine to NO. However, without it, eNOS functions in an “uncoupled state”, which leads to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage the body and be a major factor in the development of hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis and many other vascular diseases. XMJ has been theorized to increase the levels of BH4, which increases the concentration of NO in the body.
In a study published in Scientific Reports, XMJ was injected into rats on a high-fat diet to see if the drug influenced plaque size and NO levels. The scientist also injected XMJ into Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) to see if similar results to rats appeared. Immunohistochemistry, which is an immune-labeling technique that allows for microscopic visualization of cellular components was used to identify the levels of NO and ROS in both experimental models.
The results were extremely positive on both fronts. For the rat cohort, XMJ reduced the size of atherosclerotic plaques in a dose-dependent manner. XMJ also helped the eNOS system stay on track, continually producing NO instead of ROS. In the HUVEC model, XMJ improved endothelial cell function and reduced oxidative stress which was induced by hydrogen peroxide by preventing the production of ROS and increasing NO in the system. XMJ also increased the amount of BH4 available to bind to the eNOS cell line.
In conclusion, this study confirmed that the Chinese medication, XMJ, was successful in preventing atherosclerosis in rats. XMJ helped to prevent the eNOS system from producing reactive oxygen species and instead increased the levels of BH4, which lead to the continual production of nitric oxide. This medication has a long way to go before being applicable to humans, but this study showed that there is hope for this new innovation.
Written By: James A. Ogbeide Jr., PharmD