An ancient therapy could prevent cardiac hypertrophy, according to new research.
Cardiac hypertrophy is the thickening of the cardiac muscle that usually occurs as a result of high blood pressure. Cardiac hypertrophy can lead to heart failure.
The study, published in Nature Communications, suggest that a compound derived – know as honokiol – from the bark of the magnolia tree can prevent the onset of cardiac hypertrophy.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of cardiac hypertrophy, not least because they are more likely to develop high blood pressure. Problems with blood flow and resultant heart failure are among the most common diabetic complications; it is estimated that as many as 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die from heart-related health problems.
The study was conducted by injecting honokiol into mice. It reduced any excessive growth of individual cardiac muscle cells and prevented the stiffening of cardiac muscles cells. Honokiol also prevented damage from oxidative stress on the heart muscles.
Honokiol has been used as a remedy in Asia for years. This is the first scientific study to confirm its effectiveness for protecting the heart. The researchers found that honokiol activates a protective protein called SIRT3, which slows aging, reduces stress, and improve metabolic regulation.
“Honokiol, by increasing SIRT3 levels, effectively blocked both the induction and progression of cardiac hypertrophy in mice,” said lead author Mahesh Gupta, director of the Cardiac Cell Biology Research Program at the University of Chicago.
“It even mitigated pre-existing cardiac hypertrophy. This has the potential to play a significant role in the prevention and treatment of heart failure.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report to describe a pharmacologic activator of SIRT3. Until now, caloric restriction combined with endurance exercise has been the only way to boost SIRT3 levels. Very few people have been able to follow such a rigorous regimen.”

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