Strawberries With That Cream?

Published Online: Thursday, September 27, 2012
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Compounds extracted from strawberries demonstrated an ability to protect cell culture against DNA damage from ultraviolet radiation, raising the possibility that they could help produce creams to protect against melanoma and other skin cancers.

Human skin defends itself against ultraviolet (UV) radiation in several remarkably efficient ways. Important defense mechanisms include antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase) and nonenzymatic antioxidant molecules (vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and ubiquinone). Ongoing environmental exposure to physical and chemical agents, however, creates an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants, resulting in skin damage.
 
European researchers, building on knowledge of natural defense mechanisms, hypothesized that topical or systemic treatments with antioxidant-containing agents could prevent UV-mediated cutaneous damage to human skin. The researchers then looked to strawberries, which are naturally high in antioxidants, to see whether they could be clinically useful. Their findings were published in the March 7, 2012, edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
 
The researchers extracted viable chemicals from frozen strawberries, yielding a slurry of phenolic compounds containing flavonoids, ellagitannins, hydrolyzable tannins, phenolic acids, and anthracycline pigments. They then applied the extract to a UV-exposed cell culture and found that strawberry extracts provided photoprotective effects to dermal cells in vitro; cellular viability increased, and DNA damage decreased.
 
The next question: Can strawberry-based creams and ointments provide UV protection, adding to the selection of agents capable of preventing melanoma and other skin cancers?

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.

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