A compound present in some herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine is linked to liver cancers, a new study revealed.
Scientists in Singapore and Taiwan sequenced the DNA of 98 liver cancers before running a mutational signature analysis. They found that more than three-quarters of the cancers — which all came from Taiwan — had high levels of mutations related to aristolochic acid (AA), a natural compound used in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Aristolochia and Asarum plants contain AA. According to Decoded Science, seven out of approximately 5,000 herbs and other substances used in TCM contain the compound, which serves a variety of purposes.
Xi Xin, one of such herbs, reportedly contains “negligible” amounts, and thus more frequently used to treat joint and respiratory problems.
China has since imposed a restriction on the use of some herbs containing AA; Two of these are Guang Fang Ji (Radix Aristolochiae Fangchi) and Guan Mu Tong (Caulis Aristolochiae Manshuriensis), which both have high amounts of AA.
Some herbs have also banned in Taiwan since 2003, while Europe and Singapore banned the compound in 2001 and 2004, respectively, Asian Scientist Magazine noted.
In addition to identifying a link, the scientists, led by Steven Rozen of Duke-NUS Medical School, found a high prevalence of AA exposure in other parts of East and Southeast Asia after reviewing mutations on 1,400 cases of liver cancers worldwide.
“This also was an unexpected finding. We did not expect that exposure to AA was so prevalent in so many different areas,” Rozen said.
The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is a follow-up to the team’s 2013 research that established the connection between AA and urinary tract cancers.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.