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Int J Clin Exp Med. 2008;1(1):64-75. Epub 2008 Jan 20.

Caging a Beast in the Inflammation Arena: Use of Chinese Medicinal Herbs to Inhibit a Late Mediator of Lethal Sepsis, HMGB1.


Sepsis refers to a systemic inflammatory response syndrome resulting from a microbial infection, which kills > 225,000 people annually in the U.S. alone. The high mortality of sepsis is partly mediated by bacterial endotoxin, which stimulates macrophages/monocytes to sequentially release early (e.g., TNF) and late (e.g., HMGB1) pro-inflammatory cytokines. Although early proinflammatory cytokines may be protective against infection, excessive accumulation of late-acting proinflammatory mediators (such as HMGB1) may sustain a potentially injurious inflammatory response. Agents capable of inhibiting HMGB1 activities (e.g., neutralizing antibodies) or release [e.g., Chinese herbs, Danggui (Angelica sinensis), Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) and Green tea (Camellia sinensis)] rescue mice from lethal sepsis even when given 24 hours after onset of the disease. Here we review emerging evidence that support a critical role for extracellular HMGB1 as a late mediator of lethal sepsis, and several commonly used Chinese herbs (Danggui, Danshen and Green tea) as potential HMGB1- targeting therapeutic agents in experimental sepsis.


Chinese herbs; Inate immune cells; catechin; cytokines; sepsis; tanshinone

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