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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Jun;6(2):141-51. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem139. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Fetal Hemoglobin Inducers from the Natural World: A Novel Approach for Identification of Drugs for the Treatment of {beta}-Thalassemia and Sickle-Cell Anemia.

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GenTech-for-Thal, Laboratory for the Development of Pharmacological and Pharmacogenomic Therapy of Thalassaemia, Biotechnology Centre, Ferrara, Italy.


The objective of this review is to present examples of lead compounds identified from biological material (fungi, plant extracts and agro-industry material) and of possible interest in the field of a pharmacological approach to the therapy of beta-thalassemia using molecules able to stimulate production of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) in adults. Concerning the employment of HbF inducers as potential drugs for pharmacological treatment of beta-thalassemia, the following conclusions can be reached: (i) this therapeutic approach is reasonable, on the basis of the clinical parameters exhibited by hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin patients, (ii) clinical trials (even if still limited) employing HbF inducers were effective in ameliorating the symptoms of beta-thalassemia patients, (iii) good correlation of in vivo and in vitro results of HbF synthesis and gamma-globin mRNA accumulation indicates that in vitro testing might be predictive of in vivo responses and (iv) combined use of different inducers might be useful to maximize HbF, both in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we present three examples of HbF inducers from the natural world: (i) angelicin and linear psoralens, contained in plant extracts from Angelica arcangelica and Aegle marmelos, (ii) resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and several plant extracts and (iii) rapamycin, isolated from Streptomyces hygroscopicus.


fetal hemoglobin; medicinal plants; psoralens; rapamycin; red wine; resveratrol; β-thalassemia

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