The second conference of the Society for Acquired Resilience took place from the 27th to 29th of September in Sydney.
The Society for Acquired Resilience is a scientific organization of researchers interested in a variety of therapeutic applications able to ameliorate patients quality of life mainly by increasing tissue resilience and to critically assess their validity from a clinical, anatomical, physiological, cellular and molecular point of view.
The issue of Acquired Resilience has been addressed by researchers from many countries – in presence in Sydney or connected online – from multidisciplinary points of view, from neuroscience to the gut microbiome.
During the three days, different ways to increase tissue resilience were explored such as hormesis, phytotherapy, photobiomodulation, ultrasound and physical exercise.
In several interventions the main topic was in relation to the health of sight.
Silvia Bisti, Vice President of the Society and responsible for Europe – as well as scientific consultant Hortus Novus – presented a work entitled ‘Phyto-therapy and resilience: lessons from the study of saffron’.
Phytotherapy has been for millennia the only way to cope with human diseases and treatments were based on anecdotical events and personal experience. In recent years more and more attention has been devoted to understand the application, mechanisms of action and chemical basis of many natural products. Interestingly, a lot of attention has been concentrated on interesting single molecules found in plants, rather than on than the total composition. The possibility that the ratio among chemical components might be the relevant point has never been taken into consideration. In this respect, the story of saffron might open a new way to assess the therapeutic effectiveness of natural compounds. Lots of data have been obtained on saffron treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, both in vivo in patients and animal models and in vitro.
Many points have been elucidated but lots of questions remain to be addressed. The most relevant result is that to study natural compounds to be applied to human health needs a well-coordinated multidisciplinary approach.
In her presentation she summarized all the steps followed and ideas developed in more than 15 years of research and powerful collaborations:
– the first tests with saffron from L’Aquila on animal models,
– the breakthrough realizing saffron batches were not all the same and systematic study of all the saffron on the market,
– the deep dive into the chemistry features of the molecule with the chemistry department of the University of L’Aquila,
– the clinical trials on AMD and Stargardt with the Policlinico Gemelli,
– the DNA-RNA study with the University of Sidney,
-extension of saffron testing in neurodegenerative processes University of Pisa and Florence and at single receptor level CNR Genova,
-Integrated chemical test CNR Milan, University of Naples Federico II.
Some of the long lasting collaborators were also presenting at the Conference. In particular, Dr. Ilaria Piano, from the University of Pisa, talked about ‘Visual function to diagnose and monitor central neurodegenerative processes and evaluate the potential of neuroprotective treatments’.
A mechanism shared by most neurodegenerative diseases is chronic neuroinflammation that occurs in the disease progression and in some cases can worsen the prognosis itself. One of the most accessible and sensitive parts of the central nervous system, useful for monitoring the inflammatory state in the CNS, is the retina. For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, where a neuroinflammatory mechanism is established, a link has been demonstrated between cognitive impairment and retinal function confirming the essential role of the retina as a window to the brain.
Dr. Piano show, by evaluating retinal function, the protective efficacy of chronic saffron Repron treatment in a mouse model of LPS-induced neurodegenerative disease. The functional data obtained from electroretinogram (ERG) recordings were confirmed by gene related inflammation expression where saffron Repron treatment is almost completely opposite to that obtained for animals treated with LPS alone. The same result was also obtained in the case of the evaluation of protein levels that follow the course of gene regulation. These results are valid for retinal tissue and partially at the cortical level but are not reproducible at the level of the hippocampus, where it seems that the onset of damage is delayed. This trend allows to conclude that the retina represents the portion of the central nervous system most sensitive to LPS-induced neuroinflammatory damage and could be used as an early “sensor” in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand, in retinal diseases, an important strategy to preserves visual functions is counteracting mechanisms that are in common in all forms of the inherited retinal degenerative diseases (IRDs) and that drive the progression of the pathology, such as oxinflammation. In her presentation she show that, also, in IRDs such as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) natural compounds are effective to counteract inflammation. In particular, Saffron “Repron” was proved to be effective in AMD and Stargardt patients as well as in pre-clinical models recently preliminary but strong data have been obtained in an animal model of RP (rd10 mice) suggesting that treatment was able to slow down even the degeneration of rods due to a genetic mutation.
Dr. Stefano Di Marco, from the Italian Institute of Technology, instead talked about ‘Nutra-prosthetics: resiliently cope with pathology to successfully implant new technologies’.
Photoreceptor degenerations are heterogeneous events, and, unfortunately, a large group of pathologies irreversibly causes the death of photoreceptors, leading, at a late stage, to legal blindness. Nowadays, there are few promising therapeutical strategies that, unfortunately, could be beneficial only for peculiar degenerations caused by a tiny subset of genetic mutations. For the rest, no cure is available, although it is possible to slow down degenerative processes. The final available strategy is substitution. Substitutive approaches, to be successful, must rely on the integrity of the retinal network and ideally should integrate with the tissue with minimal/null inflammatory response. Nutraceutics have surged, in the last years, as a new frontier for treating different pathologies. In particular, in 2004, the lab in the University of L’Aquila demonstrated that saffron could mitigate, slowing down photoreceptor degeneration. With time, they discovered that saffron should contain particular ratios of its components to be effective on neurodegenerations and that its potentiality, concerning single-component drugs, is that the therapeutical action involves several metabolic pathways and targets at once. Saffron, therefore, can increase retinal resilience to degeneration, becoming a promising tool if preventively associated with substitutive approaches. Moreover, it is possible to associate or covalently bind natural biologically active molecules with the currently available prosthesis to achieve unprecedented biocompatibility and effectiveness. This new field of applicative science should be named Nutra-prosthetics.
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