While berries, rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, have been known to improve digestive system, help in weight loss, scientists have now found that they also have anti-cancer properties.
Berries naturally produce pigments that give them the red, blue and purple colour, known as anthocyanins.
These increase the function of the enzyme sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) in cancer cells, regulation of this enzyme could open up new avenues for cancer treatment, revealed the researchers from the University of Eastern Finland.
Sirtuins are enzymes regulating the expression of genes that control the function of cells through key cellular signalling pathways.
Ageing causes changes in sirtuin function, and these changes contribute to the development of various diseases.
Sirtuin 6 is a less well-known enzyme that is also linked to glucose metabolism.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, also found a new cyanidin anthocyanin in berries.
“The most interesting results of our study relate to cyanidin, which is an anthocyanin found abundantly in wild bilberry, blackcurrant and lingonberry,” said lead author Minna Rahnasto-Rilla, from the varsity.
Cyanidin increased SIRT6 enzyme levels in human colorectal cancer cells, and it was also discovered to decrease the expression of the Twist1 and GLUT1 cancer genes, while increasing the expression of the tumour suppressor FoXO3 gene in cells.
The researchers also designed a computer-based model that allowed them to predict how different flavonoid compounds in plants can regulate the SIRT6 enzyme.
The findings indicate that anthocyanins increase the activation of SIRT6, which may play a role in cancer pathogenesis.
The study also lays a foundation for the development of new drugs that regulate SIRT6 function, the researchers said.