Garlic Stops Leukemia Growth
New research published in the Journal of Biomedical Science has determined that one of garlic’s key constituents inhibits the growth and spread of leukemia. The study utilized the extracted compound called diallyl trisulfide, and applied it to human U937 leukemia cells within a laboratory tissue system.
The research found that diallyl trisulfide inhibited the growth of leukemia by generating a special type of reactive oxygen species that took apart the leukemia cells.
Diallyl trisulfide is a key active compound of garlic, and it is commonly extracted from garlic oil. Other research has found both garlic and diallyl trisulfide to have antimicrobial effects against a variety of infective agents, including both bacteria and fungi. Garlic has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of thrombosis – the major cause of strokes and heart attacks. Garlic has also been shown to inhibit the growth of other types of cancer cells.
The unique mechanism involved in garlic’s killing of leukemia cells surprised the researchers. Reactive oxygen species are often produced by toxins and unstable foods, and these can be destructive to the body’s tissues. But the garlic extract produced a type of intercellular reactive oxygen species (or free radical) that destroyed the mitochondria of the leukemia cells. As mitochondria are essential for the survival of the cell, the leukemia cells died.
This mechanism might be compared to a smart bomb, which has the ability to take out a specific target without blowing everything else up.
Interestingly, when the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) was added to the leukemia cell system prior to the garlic extract, garlic’s inhibitory effects of leukemia were reduced. The researchers found that the NAC was able to shut down the garlic-produced ROS before they could damage the leukemia cells.
This would indicate that using garlic for leukemia or other anticancer therapy may be more effective when not taking antioxidants.
Written by Case Adams PhD
Choi YH, Park HS. Apoptosis induction of U937 human leukemia cells by diallyl trisulfide induces through generation of reactive oxygen species. J Biomed Sci. 2012 May 11;19(1):50.