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Letters to the Editor Issue 242

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 242 - November 2017

Okayama University Research: Radiation Protection Using Plant Extracts

by Ken-ichi Kudo, Tadashi Hanafusa and Toshiro Ono

A compound found in coriander and ginger may help protect against the negative effects of radiation exposure. Plant extracts have long been used for food, cosmetic and medical purposes, from creating drugs to treat serious diseases to essential oils for relaxation and stress-relief. One group of compounds that occur naturally in oils derived from flowers, leaves, fruit and bark are called monoterpenes;  these have been used for centuries to create perfumes and essential oils. 

In recent years, scientists have become increasingly interested in monoterpenes because they are capable of scavenging ‘reactive oxygen species’ (ROS) in the body. ROS molecules are a natural product of the metabolism of oxygen, and play key roles in cell signalling and other biological processes. However, at times of stress, or for example when a patient is exposed to ionizing radiation therapies for the treatment of cancer, ROS levels can rise dramatically and become toxic to the body. Excessive ROS can result in single and double DNA strand breaks, leading to the death of healthy cells.  

Now, Toshiro Ono and co-workers at Okayama University, Japan, have investigated three different monoterpenes - thymol, linalool and menthol - to determine their protective effects on cells when exposed to X-ray irradiation.[1]

Complete prevention of DNA strand breaks by linalool irradiated after 10 Gy of X-ray.

Complete prevention of DNA strand breaks by linalool irradiated after 10 Gy of X-ray. 

The researchers used EL4 cells - a mouse lymphoma cell line - to see if cell proliferation was affected by X-ray irradiation when the cells had been treated by one of the three monoterpenes. Of the three, linalool, which is found in common plants such as ginger, coriander and lavender, showed potent radio protective activity, with 80 per cent of cells remaining viable after exposure to radiation. Linalool actively scavenged ROS generated by the X-ray treatment, and was also found to prevent DNA strand breaks. The team found no evidence that thymol or menthol provided radioprotection. 

Alongside protecting against X-ray damage, the three monoterpenes also exhibited anti-cancer activity, suppressing EL4 cell growth after 24 hours incubation. Linalool could, therefore, provide dual benefit to cancer patients by reducing damage from ionizing radiation therapies and helping to fight cancer cells. 

As Ono’s team state in their paper published in the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry (2017); “Linalool may be used as a radioprotector or radiorecovery agent during both planned and unplanned radiation exposure… Further studies will be needed for radio-protective effects of a variety of monoterpenes.”


One of the reasons that people feel so unwell after exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation (X-rays and gamma rays) is because the radiation triggers the over-production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body. These molecules can cause significant DNA damage and rapidly kill cells.  

While a number of plant extracts have been found to exhibit radioprotective ability by scavenging and destroying ROS, most drugs made from these extracts are quite inefficient once they are administered to patients, and some have unpleasant side effects such as severe nausea and acute hypertension.

Scientists are keen to find alternative, safe options for use as components in drugs that limit the effects of radiation poisoning. Monoterpenes, naturally-occurring hydrocarbon molecules that are low in toxicity, may help fill this gap. They have been used as safe components in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry for many years. This study, by Toshiro Ono and co-workers, highlights the potential that one monoterpene, linalool, may have as a radioprotective agent.

Future work

Ono and his team will continue investigating linalool’s properties, and further experiments will be conducted to analyse other monoterpenes to find out if they have similar radioprotective qualities.

1. Ken-ichi Kudo, Tadashi Hanafusa and Toshiro Ono.  In vitro analysis of radioprotective effect of monoterpenes. J Radioanal Nucl Chem 313: 169. 2017.

Professor Toshiro Ono PhD
Neutron Therapy Research Center, Okayama University,
2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8558, Japan

Source and Further information
Source: "Okayama University, Japan, Public Relations and Information Strategy Division"

Okayama University


Health Freedom is our Right, Vaccination should be our Choice

In a rather sinister move, 2017 sees more and more EU member states transitioning to mandatory, rather than voluntary, vaccination (see Table 1 below) schedules for children. In tandem, there are more and more punitive measures being issued to parents who choose to not vaccinate their kids.

Parallel to this is the growing awareness of the potential health risks associated with vaccination and a demand for properly informed consent. Freedom of choice is, after all, one of our basic human rights. When it comes to vaccines, the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance (EFVV) has been campaigning to inform the general public, politicians and the press about vaccines and the vaccination procedure in terms of its health benefits and risks since 1998. Its annual conference in Hainburg, Austria, last weekend, focused solely on the subject of mandatory vaccination and its implications.

One Message - a Right to Freedom

Melissa Smith, on behalf of ANH-Intl, joined representatives from 15 European countries as part of the EFVV annual meeting to discuss how best to respond to the removal of parental rights over vaccine choice and consent for their children. Recognition that there needs to be a full and proper debate on the issues surrounding vaccination, parental choice and informed consent was at the core of the weekend’s meeting.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18, everyone is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Article 19 provides for the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Increasingly these rights don’t seem to include opinions on vaccination unless they toe the official line. Those who doubt, or choose differently, are usually left with a weight of social censorship.

Article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states clearly: ‘Free and informed consent must be respected in the fields of medicine and biology’. EFVV estimates approximately 40% of EU citizens do not have this basic right when faced with a medical intervention such as vaccination.

Parents - and Some Doctors - Know Best

Parents the world over have been caring for their offspring since time immemorial. Parents today are no different in feeling that they are best placed to make decisions about their child’s healthcare due to their unique knowledge of their family history - and let’s not deny the power of a mother’s innate intuition. The question of whether governments and health authorities should have the right to override parental choice when it comes to medical interventions -particularly where those decisions are driven by commercial interests - was central to the meeting.

However, it’s not just parents who are finding themselves in trouble. In many countries, doctors are being prosecuted for supporting those opposed to mandatory vaccination. Stricter requirements are being imposed on children at school in Italy. Children could be kicked out of nursery and parents are being fined if children remain unvaccinated.

It is now common to label anyone who chooses not to vaccinate either themselves or their children as ‘anti-vax’. But, what the people choosing to use this term seem not to understand is that a lot of those so called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are in fact parents who were pro-vaccine and allowed their children to be vaccinated. Their stance only changed after witnessing their child suffer serious adverse reactions to one or more vaccines.

The Right to Choose

As part of its ongoing strategy, EFVV will be developing resources to give parents information on promoting natural health to develop natural immunity, as a best preventative defence. This outreach initiative, which ANH-Intl will be supporting, will be translated into the languages of the 25+ EFVV member countries to support parents across Europe.


Table 1: European countries mandating vaccination



Vaccination Policy



Childhood vaccination is strongly recommended, but not mandatory.

Vaccination is mandatory for healthcare workers


Y (see notes)

The ONE (Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance, Belgian National Bureau for Childbirth and Childhood governing French-speaking Belgium) requires vaccinations for entry to all of its registered French-speaking nurseries and childcare centres. Flemish speaking day care centre and nurseries only require Polio vaccine.

Hep B is mandatory for healthcare workers



Seven mandatory vaccines 


Y (see notes)

Ten mandatory vaccines. Parents can be fined if they choose not to vaccinate.



No mandatory vaccines

Czech Republic

Y (see notes)

Nine mandatory vaccines.



No mandatory vaccines



No mandatory vaccines



No mandatory vaccination


Y (see notes)

Currently three mandatory vaccines. This will probably rise to eleven in 2018.



No mandatory vaccination. However, parents are required to have a consultation with their doctor and have to produce a certificate to show that this has been done for their child to be allowed entry to kindergarten.



No mandatory vaccination


Y (see notes)

Eleven mandatory vaccines. Parents of children who choose not to vaccinate may be fined. Children who are unvaccinated can be removed from parental care.



No mandatory vaccination


Y (see notes)

Ten mandatory vaccines since August 2017



No mandatory vaccination, however children cannot attend kindergarten if they are unvaccinated.



No mandatory vaccination



No mandatory vaccination



No mandatory vaccination



No mandatory vaccination


Y (see notes)

Ten mandatory vaccines



No mandatory vaccination



No mandatory vaccination


Y (see notes)

Ten mandatory vaccines. Parents who choose not to vaccinate can be fined for each refusal.


Y (see notes)

Ten mandatory vaccines


Y (see notes)

Nine mandatory vaccines



No mandatory vaccination



No mandatory vaccination

United Kingdom


No mandatory vaccination


What Can You Do?

  1. Share information and educate each other. By becoming informed, you will find it easier to make informed choices and challenge the imposition of mandatory vaccination
  2. Sign the EFVV petition calling for health authorities and governments throughout the EU to ‘Respect, promote and protect freedom of informed vaccination consent throughout Europe’
  3. Sign the ANH-Intl petition calling on health authorities around the world to stop claiming vaccines are ‘safe’.
  4. Share both petitions as widely as you can.

Acknowledgement Citation and Source


New Genetic Test for Cancer Recurrence

Mitochondrial biomarkers predict tumor progression and poor overall survival in gastric cancers: Companion diagnostics for personalized medicine

Researchers have discovered a new genetic test which could help predict cancer recurrence - paving the way for more precise, personalised treatments.

Mitochondrial genes can be routinely checked in biopsies of patients diagnosed with many different cancer types, including breast, lung, ovarian or gastric cancers. And they prove more accurate than current methods of predicting a patient’s response to treatment.

Scientists identified the new measures by looking at the expression levels of mitochondrial genes in samples from post-treatment cancer patients.

“Early detection of cancer recurrence is everything; if we have information about a patient’s prognosis we can act much more effectively,” said Dr Michael P Lisanti, Professor of Translational Medicine at the University of Salford, and a co-author of the study.

“You never know if cancer will return or how to prepare for that, so knowing who will and who won’t respond well to treatment offers reassurance to doctors, patients and families, and allows a degree of closer monitoring.”

Professor Lisanti who describes mitochondria as “the engine room of cancer stem cells” – the cells that cause secondary re-growths (metastasis) - looked at more than 400 mitochondrial genes and found many to be more accurate in the prediction of recurrence or metastasis, than standard cell proliferation markers, such as Ki67 or PCNA.

The team used multiple Kaplan-Meier curves to extrapolate how mitochondrial gene levels correlated with recurrence in hundreds of cancer patients. Certain genes predicted up to 5 times higher rates of recurrence or metastasis.  One particularly useful biomarker, namely HSPD1, is associated with mitochondrial biogenesis, the process of making of new mitochondria. The researchers say using mitochondria biomarkers would enable clinicians to predict with far greater accuracy which patients will respond poorly to drug treatments, such as Tamoxifen, which is commonly administered to prevent disease progression in a sub-set of breast cancer patients. 

They also hugely increase the number of readily available clues to patient prognosis.

“In practical terms, a person in remission could be predicted to be 80% likely to fail treatment,” added co-author Dr Federica Sotgia, at the University’s biomedical research centre.

“If doctors can predict that a treatment will likely fail, it gives them more positive options; either they can monitor the patient more closely or offer an alternative course of treatment.”

The Salford research team recently described how cancer cells exploit the energy of mitochondria to resist drugs like Tamoxifen. Their latest observations are further evidence that mitochondria are both biomarkers and potential drug targets. Ultimately, they say, the generation of new mitochondria could be controlled with novel therapeutics to more effectively prevent treatment failure.

An estimated two-thirds of cancer deaths occur due to recurrence after initial treatment.

This research is published online in the Journal Oncotarget.

Source: Gareth Hollyman    

Senior Press & PR Officer, University of Salford, Salford M5 4WT


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