A recent paper by researchers at the Università degli Studi di Palermo in Palermo, Italy, looked at using elements derived from lemons in cancer prevention and treatment. The study was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in July 2022.
Specifically, they looked at using what are called plant-derived extracellular vesicles (PDEVs) to target cancer cells.
There’s some very interesting principles involved.
Extracellular vesicles, or EVs, are typically secreted by your cells to deliver proteins, nueleic acids, and metabolites to other cells. You can think of them as a kind of package delivery system, usually wrapped in lipids or fats that facilitate those transfers.
EVs in plants (or PDEVs) were relatively recently discovered to contain biomolecules such as proteins, RNA and metabolites. Because of that, PDEVs could also influence human and other mammal cells.
In cancer treatment, the idea is especially important. Because they are specifically targeted, EVs can be used to deliver anti-cancer elements such as peptides and drugs directly to tumor tissues.
The researchers used lemons for their study, because they are already known to have anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties.
- First, they isolated PDEVs from lemon juice (creating LEV);
- They analyzed their flavonoid, limonoid and lipid contents;
- They exposed macrophages, the white blood cells involved in the immune process, to LEV for 24 hours, and then to a bacterial toxin.
The white blood cells demonstrated decreased inflammatory activity. Chronic inflammation is thought to be associated with several different conditions, including cancer.
The lemon-derived EVs seemed to interfere with one of the pathways to inflammation, inhibiting the activation of specific protein complexes that are involved in creating cancer cells.
The authors conclude:
“The anti-inflammatory effects of LEVs may be explained by the presence of different compounds such as flavonoids and limonoids which act synergistically and are packaged into a lipid bilayer that make them stable from degradation and easy to be absorbed by target cells. The results of this study encourage the development of novel nutraceutical products, containing LEVs, for the prevention of inflammatory diseases.”