An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist has identified, defined and developed look-alike versions of two potentially heart-healthy compounds produced naturally by plants. Sufficient amounts of the compounds -- either in foods or as dietary supplements -- may prove to inhibit the early stages of blood clotting that are associated with heart disease.
The research was conducted by ARS biochemist Jae B. Park at the Beltsville (Md.) Human Nutrition Research Center's Phytonutrient Laboratory. The chemical structures of the two compounds and their biological activities were detailed in a 2005 patent application. Rigorous testing and regulatory approval are required before any products based on the compounds are released.
Park synthesized a larger quantity of the compounds than is likely found naturally in foods. In separate tests, he exposed each compound to blood collected from mice. Both compounds suppressed a natural process in which platelets -- disk-shaped cells circulating in the blood -- stick to other blood cells inside blood vessel walls. Platelets release chemicals that cause the cascade of events that results in formation of plugs, or clots, at the site of injury within blood vessels.
At this time, it is not known whether the amounts of these newly identified compounds normally present in foods are sufficient to cause the inhibitory effect on platelets. Park is now studying the compounds in a number of plant sources to gauge their potency.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- s chief scientific research agency.
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