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J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Aug 22;100(1-2):180-6.

Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of herbal medicine on hepatic stellate cell.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong.


Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) play a central role in hepatic fibrosis and compounds that promote apoptosis in HSC may have anti-fibrotic potentials. Herbal medicine has long been used in chronic liver disease but there is little scientific evidence for their actions. The present study investigated the effects of 14 commonly used herbs on cellular proliferation and apoptosis of a rat hepatic stellate cell line, HSC-T6 and the underlying mechanism of herb-induced apoptosis. HSC-T6 cell were incubated with herbal extracts and their proliferation was assessed by colorimetric assay. Apoptosis was measured and confirmed by flow cytometry, terminal transferase uridyl nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay and morphological features in hematoxylin and eosin staining. Apoptotic pathways involving Fas receptor and Bcl-2 family were investigated by Western blot. Five herbs, namely Angelica sinensis (AS), Carthamus tinctorius (CT), Ligusticum chuanxiong (LC), Salvia miltiorrhiza (SM) and Stephania tetrandra (ST) demonstrated both anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities in HSC-T6. The highest potency was detected in SM and ST with 51.63 and 44.52% of HSC-T6 showing apoptotic changes, respectively. This was associated with upregulation of Fas and Bax and down-regulation of Bcl-xL in HSC. Fas ligand and Bcl2 expressions remained unchanged. The potential anti-fibrotic effect of herbal medicine warrants further evaluation.

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