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Investigating a more effective alternative to current hepatitis C treatment therapy, scientists have studied the effects of Silybum marianum (milk thistle) seeds on the hepatitis C virus (HCV) 3a core gene.
Investigating a more effective alternative to current hepatitis C treatment therapy, scientists have studied the effects of Silybum marianum (milk thistle) seeds on the hepatitis C virus (HCV) 3a core gene. The team, led by Usman A. Ashfaq of the Division of Molecular Medicine at the University of the Punjab (Lahore, Pakistan), used thin layer chromatography (TLC), column chromatography, and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to identify the active ingredient in Silymarin (a flavinoid complex extracted from the seeds) and study its antiviral effect on HCV.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 3% of the world’s population has HCV, making hepatitis C a global health issue. The disease is spread predominantly through parenteral exposure to blood and other bodily fluids that contain the virus, and because of the wide variety of virus strains, there is no vaccine. Currently, those infected are treated with a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy; however, the cost, side effects, and resistance development warrant an alternative from either herbal sources or synthetic chemistry.
Silymarin (SM) was extracted from the Silybum marianum seeds, then purified and fractioned using thin layer chromatography. HPLC was used to check the purity of each fraction. Human hepatoma cells were transfected with HCV and introduced to different concentrations and combinations of fractioned SM and interferon. The team determined that two of the four SM fractions — S1 and S2 — showed an antiviral effect by dramatically reducing the HCV core protein level.
The team concludes that the active ingredient in SM (the S1 and S2 fractions), when administered in combination with interferon, can be used to cure Hepatitis C infection. The results were published in the April 2011 issue of Virology Journal.