Acid that cures

By Biplab Das
Published: Sunday 30 November 2008

How placental cells heal

placental cells have curative properties, and traditional systems of medicine, especially the Chinese. Modern science, too, has its uses.

Placental cells are widely used by drug industries for preparing anti-bacterial creams, wound-healing bandages and even for certain skin diseases, after studies found that placental cells have properties that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Pinning down the active compound that imparts curative properties to placental cells, however, remain elusive.

Scientists from Calcutta University and Albert David Limited, a Kolkata-based pharma company, recently studied compounds present in placental cells and said an amino acid helps heal wounds much faster. The team led by Dhrubojyoti Chattopadhyay from Dr B C Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering, Calcutta University, carried out the experiment using disease-free placentas. The scientists prepared placental extract and divided the solution into different components.

Then they exposed each portion to neutrophils--the most abundant type of white blood cells that react within an hour of tissue injury and migrate towards the site of injury to keep the wound clean. The results showed that only two of the fractions induced neutrophils to migrate. Analyses revealed that the predominant component in both the fractions was glutamic acid, an amino acid.

This amino acid is a potential drug candidate for wound healing, the scientists reported in the recent online issue of Amino Acid. The mechanism how glutamic acid induces the migration of neutrophils, however, is unknown. "Work is in progress in our laboratories to identify the receptors present on neutrophils that could be responsible for the migration," said Chattopadhyay.

Glutamic acid is known to affect the central nervous system. The finding is of interest as it also suggests a link between nervous and immune systems.

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