UCLouvain uses a plant extract to prevent the thickening of the heart muscle


Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the world. Heart failure due to the thickening of the heart muscle is a major contributor to this. UCLouvain has identified a possible remedy in the plant world.

The hypertrophy or thickening of the heart muscle may be the result of what is called oxidative stress, a metabolic state in which more oxygenates are released than normal and damage is done to cells and tissues. However, it is not known exactly how oxidants cause this condition. What is clear, however, is that antioxidants are not a suitable antidote.

Many cell types, including heart cells, produce hydrogen peroxide, a well-known antiseptic. At low concentrations, it has beneficial effects, but at higher concentrations, it emits signals that, among other things, cause hypertrophy. During stress, cardiac cells produce hydrogen peroxide outside the cells. As with plant roots, this substance is transported to rodent and human cardiac cells via a protein called aquaporin-1. And that leads to hypertrophy.

Brahmi has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine. UCLouvain scientists have discovered that the extract of Brahmi contains a molecule which blocks aquaporin-1 and prevents rodents from developing hypertrophy in response to stress, such as hypertension. Brahmi is readily available and has already proven useful for neurological disorders. It is hoped that this will also be the case in the case for heart failure.