It’s Christmas time at Gold Bio! As the days count down to that perennial epic journey of one jolly, old elf, make sure you deck the halls with boughs of holly, rock around the Christmas tree, sing some yuletide carols by a fire and leave a peppermint stick for old Saint Nick. But don’t forget that special someone who’s waiting for you under the mistletoe!

I love Christmas and all the various Christmas traditions I have found over the years. But kissing under the mistletoe is perhaps the strangest one I have become accustomed to. From the Vikings to the Victorian English to the present, plucking a berry from a sprig of mistletoe above your head as you kiss the girl you love is a tradition that has not changed significantly in ages. That’s a lot of love for a parasitic plant that sprouts from bird droppings to dig its roots deep into the limbs of towering oaks or sweet apple trees. And never reaching for the ground itself (as a good bush should), it happily pries the nutrients it needs from its host tree, staying green throughout the year, thriving at its host’s expense.

And yet, throughout the ages, traditional folklore has also placed a load of positive healing powers onto this strange plant; which is even more strange, since ingesting the berries will probably cause you to have cramps and diarrhea, if not worse. But it has been used historically by herbalists to treat circulatory or respiratory problems and by ancient druids to treat infertility, and the extract from the European mistletoe, Viscum album, can still be bought under a myriad of trade names today.

But did you know…maybe there’s something to those folklores after all. Recently a research group in Turkey began to study the mechanism in which the V. album extract affects cancer cells. They found a remarkable trend of reduced expression in several key heat shock proteins (Hsp) across C6 glioma cells when those cells were pretreated with the extract prior to heat shock. But they also saw an increase in apoptosis in the C6 glioma cells through the induction of caspase-3 activity. The caspace-3 activity was significantly higher than the control with extract pretreatment alone, but even more higher yet with extract pretreatment and heat shocking! And since elevated Hsp levels have been suggested as potential indicators for chemotherapy resistance, any reduction in those proteins should increase the efficacy of cancer treatment.

So during this holiday season, as you find yourself unobtrusively waiting beneath that sprig of green; spare a thought for the medical research ongoing in labs throughout the world, supported by Gold Bio and many others, and the miraculous ways in which our world provides for all of our needs. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light…and give thanks to the research that continues to improve our daily lives!

Uçar, E., et al. (2012). "Extract from mistletoe, Viscum album L., reduces Hsp27 and 14-3-3 protein expression and induces apoptosis in C6 rat glioma cells." Genetics and Molecular Research 11(3): 2801-2813.

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