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Crocetin from Saffron: An Active Component of an Ancient Spice

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The known properties of saffron (Crocus sativus, L.) and its components have been examined. Recently, hormone like effects in green algae and the anti-cancerogenic and anti-toxic effects, have been observed. In particular, the effects of crocetin, a carotenoids (8,8′-diapo-8,8′-carotenoic acid) present in saffron and characterized by a diterpenic and symmetrical structure with seven double bonds and four methyl groups, have been taken into consideration. It has been found that this compound enhances the oxygen diffusivity through liquids, such as plasma. As a consequence of this property, it has been observed that crocetin increases alveolar oxygen transport and enhances pulmonary oxygenation. It improves cerebral oxygenation in hemorrhaged rats and positively acts in the atherosclerosis and arthritis treatment. It inhibits skin tumor promotion in mice (i.e., with benzo(a)pyrene); it has an inhibitory effect on intracellular nucleic acid and protein synthesis in malignant cells, as well as on protein-kinase-C and prorooncogene in INNIH/3T3 cells. This is most likely due to its anti-oxidant activity. Furthermore, crocetin protects against oxidative damage in rat primary hepatocytes. It also suppresses aflatoxin B1-induced hepatotoxic lesions and has a modulatory effect on aflatoxin, B1 cytotoxicity, and DNA adduct formation on C3H10/T1/2 fibroblast cells. It also has a protective effect on the bladder toxicity, induced by cyclophosphamide. The experiments reported in the scientific literature and the interesting results obtained have been carried out in vitro or on laboratory animals, but not yet on man.
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Keywords: anti-carcinogenic; anti-oxidant; anti-toxic; crocetin; oxygen diffusivity in liquids; saffron

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dipartimento di Scienze Università "G. d'Annunzio" Chieti-Pescara Viale Pindaro, 42 65127 Pescara Italy

Publication date: May 1, 2004

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