Can the Indian Kino Tree, Pterocarpus marsupium be the answer for diabetes control? Pterocarpus marsupium, a deciduous tree, native to India is found mainly in Western Ghats. According to a new study on use of natural plant extracts a novel compound Pterostilbene isolated from the Indian Kino Tree could be used for control of diseases like Diabetes

 As many as 65.1 million people in India suffer from diabetes, and the number is growing: One in every 5 individual in India will be diabetic by 2025. The disease leads to changes in lifestyle and diet, and left unchecked, leads to a variety of ailments from kidney disease to nerve damage.

Oxidative stress is known to alter blood sugar levels, which can be extremely challenging for people prone to diabetes. Studies elsewhere point to high glucose-derived oxygen free radicals as aiding and abetting diabetic complications. But why do beta cells, which produce, store and release the hormone insulin, and which possess remarkable regenerative capacity, give up the fight?

“We know that Oxidative stress leads to excess formation of harmful reactive substances called free radicals.  The free radicals can damage your body’s cells. They do that to the beta cells as well. So we need to take the help of Antioxidants, which help to stabilize free radicals before they can damage your body's cells”, said Dr. K.M. Ramkumar, who is leading the research.

Moreover findings resulting from human clinical trials where antioxidants were studied as a supplement to standard diabetes treatment showed no established benefit for antioxidant use in the management of diabetes and its complications. Therefore, new strategies for controlling oxidative stress, such as development of new mechanism-based antioxidants like Nuclear factor erythroid-2 related factor (Nrf2) activators, will be required to prevent diabetes.

“This is when we decided to look at nature. We identified the therapeutic potential of novel plant derived compounds like Pterostilbene against pancreatic beta-cell death through Nrf2-mediated mechanism”, said Dr. K.M. Ramkumar. Nrf2 serves as the ‘master regulator’ of cytoprotective antioxidant genes in response to chemical and oxidative stresses.  No wonder the spotlight is on Nrf2 pathways for protection against many cellular disorders.

Can we tune weapons like Nrf2 activators to fight against Diabetes?  “Our work has given us an intriguing opportunity to elucidate their underlying mechanisms and fine tune these “weapons” to be more and more effective drug targets in the fight against diseases like Diabetes’, said Dr. K.M. Ramkumar, who is leading the research at SRM University , Chennai.