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How resveratrol helps prevent disease, from cancer to autoimmune disorders
resveratrol wine

Resveratrol, a compound famously found in red wine, is well-known for its anti-aging and cognitive benefits, but is also plays an important role in cardiovascular function and cancer prevention.

New research from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Rangel College of Pharmacy helps explain why, and it has a lot to do with the compound’s ability to regulate the creation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Blood vessel formation, of course, is significant within the cardiovascular system, but because malignant tumors require a consistent, strong blood supply, this process also has implications for cancer treatment.

Resveratrol is a plant polyphenol commonly found in peanuts and the skin of certain fruits, especially blackberries, blueberries and red grapes. Because the amount of time the grape skins spend in the vats determines resveratrol levels in the resulting wine, the rich, dark red wines (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Bordeaux) have the highest levels of resveratrol. However, even within the same type of wine the levels of the compound can vary widely, and unfortunately for the budget conscious, the expensive wines tend to have the most.

Resveratrol levels are important because, as the new research suggests, it can regulate angiogenesis by affecting epigenetic factors.

“Angiogenesis—the creation of new blood vessels—is a normal biological process, but it can go wrong,” said Catherine Powell, a post-doctoral research associate in Mahua Choudhury’s lab at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. Too much angiogenesis can lead to numerous diseases including cancer and autoimmune disorders, while insufficient angiogenesis is involved in diabetes.

“New therapies are desperately needed,” Powell said, “and that’s where resveratrol comes in.” But only one type (isotope) of resveratrol is beneficial, and the other type might actually counteract the effects of the good kind. The “good” kind of resveratrol, called trans-resveratrol, can interrupt the different steps of angiogenesis through epigenetic regulation—essentially regulating the expression of certain genes—to endothelial cells, which line the interior surfaces of blood vessels.

Endothelial cells function to provide a barrier between the wall of the vessel and the blood itself. When this barrier isn’t working properly, a variety of vascular diseases, including high blood pressure and blood clots—tend to occur.

“Resveratrol regulates genes that cause angiogenesis in endothelial cells and increases antiangiogenic microRNAs in human umbilical vein endothelial cells,” Choudhury said. In other words, the more there is of it, the more resveratrol tends to inhibit the creation of new blood vessels, which has implications for cancerous tumor growth and metastasis.

“Resveratrol has great therapeutic potential for several diseases, including cancers,” Powell added.

The project is a collaboration between Choudhury’s lab and the lab of Kayla Bayless, Ph.D., associate professor in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

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