□ The DGIST (President Kuk Yang) Core Protein Resources Center (Center Director Choi Seong-gyun) and Honam National Institute of Biological Resources (Director Ryu Tae-chul) announced on August 14th (Monday) that they have molecularly elucidated the mechanism by which veratramine, extracted from the wild island plant Veratrum japonicum, inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, through the “Advancing Island Wildlife Materials” (Research Director Choi Gyeong-min) project.
□ Prostate cancer ranks first in incidence among male cancers in Western countries including the United States, and it is also the fastest-growing male cancer in South Korea. In the early stages of onset, hormone suppression therapy can control proliferation; however, as the disease progresses, it becomes hormone-refractory, making treatment more difficult. Therefore, developing treatments using natural substances without side effects is considered an important area of research.
□ Veratramine extracted from Veratrum japonicum, a wild island plant, has been known to inhibit the proliferation of liver cancer and brain neuroglioma cells and is also effective for high blood pressure and inflammatory diseases. However, the effect of veratramine on prostate cancer had not been studied before.
□ The research team led by Choi Seong-gyun applied veratramine to prostate cancer cells and identified the concentration at which it inhibits the cells’ biological functions. They confirmed that veratramine significantly inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer. Furthermore, the experiments revealed that veratramine significantly reduces the cancer cells’ survivability and mobility.
□ Through immunostaining, proteomics, and microarray analyses, the research team found that veratramine increases the expression of ATM/ATR, a DNA damage-related protein in prostate cancer cells, and suppresses the expression of the Akt protein involved in cancer cell proliferation. Additionally, when veratramine was administered to immunodeficient mice with prostate cancer, both the tumor size and the expression of tumorigenic proteins significantly decreased without any toxic lesions in the parenchymal organs.
□ This research was conducted as part of the “Advancing Island Wildlife Materials” project initiated last April. This project is a collaborative effort involving the Honam National Institute of Biological Resources (Ministry of Environment) and academia–industry collaborations, aimed at accelerating growth in the biosector by fostering bio-material infrastructure. Plans are underway to continue research on enhancing the utility of island-specific wildlife materials in collaboration with relevant organizations.
□ Choi Seong-gyun, Director of the DGIST Core Protein Resources Center, stated, “This research lays the groundwork for developing effective substances that can overcome the limitations of existing treatments using island wildlife extracts. We will take the lead in constructing a utility database for various effective substances from island wildlife extracts for different diseases through active joint research between DGIST and the Honam National Institute of Biological Resources.”
□ Choi Gyeong-min, the leader of the research group, expressed great satisfaction with the excellent results achieved based on inter-ministerial cooperation in the initial stage of the project, stating, “We will continue to meet the public’s expectations through fruitful outcomes from multi-ministerial collaborations.”
□ Kim Hee-yeon and Lee Seung-woo from the DGIST Core Protein Resources Center participated in the research as the first authors, with Choi Seong-gyun as the corresponding author. The research findings were published in the globally recognized natural products scientific journal The American Journal of Chinese Medicine on June 30.