New drug discovery for treatment of atherosclerosis


Content of report: 1.Title of the report 2.Background information on atherosclerosis and the use of medical drugs/herbs in the treatment of atherosclerosis 3.details of the Australian native plant you have selected for possible targeting as an atherosclerosis-treating herb. 4.References(Harvard System) 5.A research appendix with a detailed listing of all avenues of searching


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Background information. 2

Use of medical drugs/herbs in the treatment of atherosclerosis. 3

Purslane (PortulacaOleracea): An Australian native plant used as an atherosclerosis-treating herb. 4

Research appendix. 5

References. 6

Background information

Atherosclerosis is commonly referred to as “hardening of the arteries”. This hardening causes blockage of human arteries, a condition known as ischemia. The blockage prevents the circulation of blood-rich blood into the heart. Many steps are involved in the build-up to atherosclerosis, some of which are not fully understood.


Researchers are increasingly studying about how cholesterol interacts with the processes of inflammatory response and oxidation. They are also putting emphasis on the interaction between cholesterol and lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are the elements that are involved in the transport of cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in both animal-based foods and animal cells. Although it is critical for many bodily functions, too much cholesterol makes is harmful under certain conditions.

            Oxidation is a damaging process that is characterized by the release of free radicals (Asztalos 2004, p. 387). In heart disease, artery linings overproduce free radicals when conditions such as environmental stress and cigarette smoke exist, thereby triggering atherosclerosis. The oxidized LDL builds upon the walls of the arteries, causing heart disease.

For inflammatory response to take place, the persistent reaction has to be continuously taking in the body, causing arteries to harden. Researchers are convinced that this reaction is always an immune process that is commonly known as the inflammatory response.  Growing evidence indicates that inflammatory response takes place not only in single arteries in the form of plaques but also in all the arteries that lead to the heart.

Eventually, these hardened arteries continue to be narrower and narrower, a condition that is referred to as stenosis. Continued narrowing makes it very difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart muscles. Injury to heart tissues may result if coronary arteries are affected by ischemia. Atherosclerosis causes heart attack in two ways: (a) if the artery is completely blocked such that ischemia becomes extensive, causing oxygen-bearing tissues near the heart to die and (b)  if fissures or tears develop on the plaque, such that the resulting blood clots completely block any movement of oxygen-rich blood into the heart.

Use of medical drugs/herbs in the treatment of atherosclerosis

            According to an EARS study, Mild atherosclerosis can be treated through changes in one’s lifestyle, by reducing fat and cholesterol levels in the diet, quitting smoking, losing weight, and maintaining physical fitness. Serious forms of atherosclerosis require the use of medical drugs and sometimes surgery. Cholesterol medications are meant to lower the patient’s Low-Density Lipoprotein aggressively as well as to reverse the buildup of many fat deposits in the arteries. These drugs are classified into two groups: fibrates and statins.

            Anti-platelet medications such as aspirin reduce clumping that is caused by platelets. They prevent blood clots from forming in narrow arteries. Anticoagulants such as warfarin and heparin are also good medical drugs for preventing the blood from clotting. Blood pressure medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) and beta-blockers interact with calcium channel blockers to reverse the worsening atherosclerosis condition. Other medications are aimed at controlling risk factors for atherosclerosis, for example, cancer. Yet others are aimed at treating the symptoms of the disease, such as leg pains in the course of physical exercises.

            Surgery is a more aggressive treatment for atherosclerosis than medical drugs. It is often recommended for patients with severe symptoms of the disease. Angioplasty is a surgical procedure whereby the doctor inserts a thin tube known as a catheter into the part of the artery that is blocked. A wire is used to push a deflated balloon through the catheter, into the narrowed region. Once the balloon is inflated, the deposits are compressed against the artery walls.

Endarterectomy is the surgical removal of fatty deposits from the narrowed walls of the artery. Thrombolytic therapy involves the insertion of drugs into the artery in order to dissolve a clot. Alternatively, a doctor may decide to perform a by-pass surgery, whereby he creates a graft with a vessel obtained from another part of your body or a synthetic fabric tube. The tube makes it possible for blood to flow around the narrowed artery.

Purslane (PortulacaOleracea): An Australian native plant used as an atherosclerosis-treating herb

The common name for the Australian variety of purslane is Pigweed. It belongs to the family Portulacaceae. The plant contains β-carotene which is part of the plant’s fatty acid profile (Liua et al.  2000 p. 5). The fatty content of the plant ranges between 1.5 and 2.5 mg/g of fresh leaves. In the stems, the fatty acid content is 0.6 to 0.9 mg/g. In the seeds, it is 80 to 170 mg/g (Liua, et al.  2000, p. 6). 


Many studies have been carried out that get close to reinforcing the hypothesis that carotenes, among other vitamins, are offer protection against atherosclerosis since they are very good antioxidants (Elsevier 2009 p. 11). In a study to find out the relationship between carotenoid plasma levels and atherosclerosis found in femoral arteries and carotid, Elsevier 2009 p. 11 found out that the risk of atherosclerosis gradually decreased when plasma carotene concentrations were increased. The researcher studied 392 men and women of the 46-65 age range. For these findings to be considered consistent, other risk factors, including smoking, systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoproteins, age, sex and different categories of alcohol consumption, were adjusted. The same study also revealed that β-carotene played a protective among atherosclerosis patients during early atherogenesis.

The cis-unsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids contained in Purslanealso contribute to the lowering of risks of atherosclerosis (Mensink&Thijssen 2005, p. 23). The fatty acids are also beneficial in the coagulation system. However, it is still debatable which one between cis-unsaturated fatty acids and carbohydrates is the best replacement of saturated in order for people to get maximum protection against atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, the β-carotene found in Purslaneare better for dealing with Lipoprotein imbalances than carbohydrates.

Research appendix

EARS: The European Atherosclerosis Research Study

LDL: Low-Density Lipoproteins

HDL: High-Density Lipoproteins


Asztalos, BF.2004, HDLmetabolism and progression of atherosclerosis: new insights from the HDL Atherosclerosis Treatment Study, Current Opinion in Cardiology  Vol. 19 no 4 – pp. 385-91.

Elsevier, B.V 2009, ‘High Plasma Levels of Α- And Β-Carotene Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Atherosclerosis: Results from the Bruneck Study’, Atherosclerosis, Vol. 153, no. 1, pp. 231-39.

Liua, L. et al.  2000, ‘Fatty Acids And Β-Carotene In Australian Purslane (PortulacaOleracea) Varieties’, Journal of Chromatography A, Vol.  893 no. 1, p. 207-13.

Mensink, RP &Thijssen, MA.  2005, ‘Fatty Acids and Atherosclerotic Risk’.  HandbExpPharmacol.; Vol. 5, no. 170 pp. 165-94.

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