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1.  Peripheral Inflammatory Markers and Antioxidant Response during the Post-Acute and Chronic Phase after Severe Traumatic Brain Injury 
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a mechanical insult to the brain caused by external forces and associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. The patients may show different profiles of neurological recovery and a combination of oxidative damage and inflammatory processes can affect their courses. It is known that an overexpression of cytokines can be seen in peripheral blood in the early hours/days after the injury, but little is known about the weeks and months encompassing the post-acute and chronic phases. In addition, no information is available about the antioxidant responses mediated by the major enzymes that regulate reactive oxygen species levels: superoxide dismutase, catalase, peroxidases, and GSH-related enzymes. This study investigates the 6-month trends of inflammatory markers and antioxidant responses in 22 severe TBI patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness, consecutively recruited in a dedicated neurorehabilitation facility. Patients with a high degree of neurological impairment often show an uncertain outcome. In addition, the profiles of plasma activities were related to the neurological recovery after 12 months. Venous peripheral blood samples were taken blindly as soon as clinical signs and laboratory markers confirmed the absence of infections, 3 and 6 months later. The clinical and neuropsychological assessment continued up to 12 months. Nineteen patients completed the follow-up. In the chronic phase, persistent high plasma levels of cytokines can interfere with cognitive functioning and higher post-acute levels of cytokines [interferon (IFN)-γ, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL1b, IL6] are associated with poorer cognitive recoveries 12 months later. Moreover, higher IFN-γ, higher TNF-α, and lower glutathione peroxidase activity are associated with greater disability. The results add evidence of persistent inflammatory response, provide information about long-term imbalance of antioxidant activity, and suggest that the over-production of cytokines and the alteration of the redox homeostasis in the post-acute phase might adversely affect the neurological and functional recovery. Inflammatory and antioxidant activity markers might offer a feasible way to highlight some of the processes opposing recovery after a severe TBI.
PMCID: PMC5089971  PMID: 27853449
traumatic brain injury; inflammation; oxidative stress; cytokines plasma levels; follow-up; cognitive outcome
3.  Cardiac and Vascular Synergic Protective Effect of Olea europea L. Leaves and Hibiscus sabdariffa L. Flower Extracts 
This study was aimed at investigating the cardiovascular effects of an Olea europea L. leaf extract (OEE), of a Hibiscus sabdariffa L. flower extract (HSE), and of their 13 : 2 w/w mixture in order to assess their cardiac and vascular activity. Both extracts were fully characterized in their bioactive compounds by HPLC-MS/MS analysis. The study was performed using primary vascular endothelial cells (HUVECs) to investigate the antioxidant and cytoprotective effect of the extracts and their mixture and isolated guinea-pig left and right atria and aorta to evaluate the inotropic and chronotropic activities and vasorelaxant properties. In cultured HUVECs, OEE and HSE reduced intracellular reactive oxygen species formation and improved cell viability, following oxidative stress in dose-dependent manner. OEE and HSE exerted negative inotropic and vasorelaxant effects without any chronotropic property. Interestingly, the mixture exerted higher cytoprotective effects and antioxidant activities. Moreover, the mixture exerted an inotropic effect similar to each single extract, while it revealed an intrinsic negative chronotropic activity different from the single extract; its relaxant activity was higher than that of each single extract. In conclusion OEE and HSE mixture has a good potential for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical application, thanks to the synergistic effects of the single phytochemicals.
PMCID: PMC4477181  PMID: 26180582
4.  Bioactive Peptides in Cereals and Legumes: Agronomical, Biochemical and Clinical Aspects 
Cereals and legumes are key components of a healthy and balanced diet. Accordingly, many national nutritional guidelines emphasize their health promoting properties by placing them at the base of nutritional food pyramids. This concept is further validated by the observed correlation between a lower risk and occurrence of chronic diseases and the adherence to dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, in which cereal grains, legumes and derived products represent a staple food. In the search for a dietary approach to control/prevent chronic degenerative diseases, protein derived bioactive peptides may represent one such source of health-enhancing components. These peptides may already be present in foods as natural components or may derive from hydrolysis by chemical or enzymatic treatments (digestion, hydrolysis or fermentation). Many reports are present in the literature regarding the bioactivity of peptides in vitro and a wide range of activities has been described, including antimicrobial properties, blood pressure-lowering (ACE inhibitory) effects, cholesterol-lowering ability, antithrombotic and antioxidant activities, enhancement of mineral absorption/bioavailability, cyto- or immunomodulatory effects, and opioid-like activities. However it is difficult to translate these observed effects to human. In fact, the active peptide may be degraded during digestion, or may not be absorbed or reach the target tissues at a concentration necessary to exert its function. This review will focus on bioactive peptides identified in cereals and legumes, from an agronomical and biochemical point of view, including considerations about requirements for the design of appropriate clinical trials necessary for the assessment of their nutraceutical effect in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4264216  PMID: 25405741
bioactive peptides; cereals; legumes; agronomical aspects; biological activities; clinical aspects
5.  Novel Targets of Sulforaphane in Primary Cardiomyocytes Identified by Proteomic Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83283.
Cardiovascular diseases represent the main cause of mortality in the industrialized world and the identification of effective preventive strategies is of fundamental importance. Sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate from cruciferous vegetables, has been shown to up-regulate phase II enzymes in cardiomyocytes and counteract oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Aim of the present study was the identification and characterization of novel sulforaphane targets in cardiomyocytes applying a proteomic approach. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry were used to generate protein profiles of primary neonatal rat cardiomyocytes treated and untreated with 5 µM sulforaphane for 1-48 h. According to image analysis, 64 protein spots were found as differentially expressed and their functional correlations were investigated using the MetaCore program. We mainly focused on 3 proteins: macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), CLP36 or Elfin, and glyoxalase 1, due to their possible involvement in cardioprotection. Validation of the time-dependent differential expression of these proteins was performed by western blotting. In particular, to gain insight into the cardioprotective role of the modulation of glyoxalase 1 by sulforaphane, further experiments were performed using methylglyoxal to mimic glycative stress. Sulforaphane was able to counteract methylglyoxal-induced apoptosis, ROS production, and glycative stress, likely through glyoxalase 1 up-regulation. In this study, we reported for the first time new molecular targets of sulforaphane, such as MIF, CLP36 and glyoxalase 1. In particular, we gave new insights into the anti-glycative role of sulforaphane in cardiomyocytes, confirming its pleiotropic behavior in counteracting cardiovascular diseases.
PMCID: PMC3859650  PMID: 24349480
6.  Sulforaphane as a Potential Protective Phytochemical against Neurodegenerative Diseases 
A wide variety of acute and chronic neurodegenerative diseases, including ischemic/traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease, share common characteristics such as oxidative stress, misfolded proteins, excitotoxicity, inflammation, and neuronal loss. As no drugs are available to prevent the progression of these neurological disorders, intervention strategies using phytochemicals have been proposed as an alternative form of treatment. Among phytochemicals, isothiocyanate sulforaphane, derived from the hydrolysis of the glucosinolate glucoraphanin mainly present in Brassica vegetables, has demonstrated neuroprotective effects in several in vitro and in vivo studies. In particular, evidence suggests that sulforaphane beneficial effects could be mainly ascribed to its peculiar ability to activate the Nrf2/ARE pathway. Therefore, sulforaphane appears to be a promising compound with neuroprotective properties that may play an important role in preventing neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3745957  PMID: 23983898
7.  Polyphenols in Exercise Performance and Prevention of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage 
Although moderate physical exercise is considered an essential component of a healthy lifestyle that leads the organism to adapt itself to different stresses, exercise, especially when exhaustive, is also known to induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle damage. Many efforts have been carried out to identify dietary strategies or micronutrients able to prevent or at least attenuate the exercise-induced muscle damage and stress. Unfortunately most studies have failed to show protection, and at the present time data supporting the protective effect of micronutrients, as antioxidant vitamins, are weak and trivial. This review focuses on those polyphenols, present in the plant kingdom, that have been recently suggested to exert some positive effects on exercise-induced muscle damage and oxidative stress. In the last decade flavonoids as quercetin, catechins, and other polyphenols as resveratrol have caught the scientists attention. However, at the present time drawing a clear and definitive conclusion seems to be untimely.
PMCID: PMC3742027  PMID: 23983900
8.  Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) Bark Extract: Cardiovascular Activity and Myocyte Protection against Oxidative Damage 
This work was aimed at evaluating the cardioprotective effects of Castanea sativa Mill. (CSM) bark extract characterized in its phenolic composition by HPLC-DAD-MS analysis. The study was performed using primary cultures of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes to investigate the antioxidant and cytoprotective effects of CSM bark extract and isolated guinea pig left and right atria, left papillary muscle, and aorta to evaluate its direct effect on cholinergic and adrenergic response. In cultured cardiomyocytes the CSM bark extract reduced intracellular reactive oxygen species formation and improved cell viability following oxidative stress in dose-dependent manner. Moreover, the extract decreased the contraction induced by noradrenaline (1 μM) in guinea pig aortic strips and induced transient negative chronotropic and positive inotropic effects without involvement of cholinergic or adrenergic receptors in the guinea pig atria. Our results indicate that CSM bark extract exhibits antioxidant activity and might induce cardioprotective effect.
PMCID: PMC3600200  PMID: 23533692
9.  Phytochemical Profile and Nutraceutical Value of Old and Modern Common Wheat Cultivars 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45997.
Among health-promoting phytochemicals in whole grains, phenolic compounds have gained attention as they have strong antioxidant properties and can protect against many degenerative diseases. Aim of this study was to profile grain phenolic extracts of one modern and five old common wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) varieties and to evaluate their potential antiproliferative or cytoprotective effect in different cell culture systems.
Wheat extracts were characterized in terms of antioxidant activity and phenolic composition (HPLC/ESI-TOF-MS profile, polyphenol and flavonoid contents). Results showed that antioxidant activity (FRAP and DPPH) is mostly influenced by flavonoid (both bound and free) content and by the ratio flavonoids/polyphenols. Using a leukemic cell line, HL60, and primary cultures of neonatal rat cardiomyocytes, the potential antiproliferative or cytoprotective effects of different wheat genotypes were evaluated in terms of intracellular reactive oxygen species levels and cell viability. All tested wheat phenolic extracts exerted dose-dependent cytoprotective and antiproliferative effects on cardiomyocytes and HL60 cells, respectively. Due to the peculiar phenolic pattern of each wheat variety, a significant genotype effect was highlighted. On the whole, the most relevant scavenging effect was found for the old variety Verna. No significant differences in terms of anti-proliferative activities among wheat genotypes was observed.
Results reported in this study evidenced a correspondence between the in vitro antioxidant activity and potential healthy properties of different extracts. This suggests that an increased intake of wheat grain derived products could represent an effective strategy to achieve both chemoprevention and protection against oxidative stress related diseases.
PMCID: PMC3458827  PMID: 23049918
10.  Long-Term IGF-I Exposure Decreases Autophagy and Cell Viability 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12592.
A reduction in IGF-I signaling has been found to increase lifespan in multiple organisms despite the fact that IGF-I is a trophic factor for many cell types and has been found to have protective effects against multiple forms of damage in acute settings. The increase in longevity seen in response to reduced IGF-I signaling suggests that there may be differences between the acute and chronic impact of IGF-I signaling. We have examined the possibility that long-term stimulation with IGF-I may have a negative impact at the cellular level using quiescent human fibroblasts. We find that fibroblast cells exposed to IGF-I for 14 days have reduced long-term viability as judged by colony forming assays, which is accompanied by an accumulation of senescent cells. In addition we observe an accumulation of cells with depolarized mitochondria and a reduction in autophagy in the long-term IGF-I treated cultures. An examination of mice with reduced IGF-I levels reveals evidence of enhanced autophagy and fibroblast cells derived from these mice have a larger mitochondrial mass relative to controls indicating that changes in mitochondrial turnover occurs in animals with reduced IGF-I. The results indicate that chronic IGF-I stimulation leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and reduced cell viability.
PMCID: PMC2935370  PMID: 20830296

Results 1-10 (10)