Pickled capers have a specific compound known as quercetin which has recently been discovered by researchers from University of California, Irvine School of Medicine (UCA-ISM). The compound ‘quercetin’ regulates proteins in the body that are necessary for some important body mechanisms, including heart rate and brain health, says a recent study published in the journal Communication Biology.
Previously, the caper plant has been used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus (DM), fungal infections, chest congestion, worms in the intestines, and skin disease caused by parasites called leishmaniasis. Capers can be found in many recipes, including seafood and pasta. It has also been used in salads or salad dressings, as well as tapenade or chopped olive dish and thick sauces like remoulade.
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The concerns about cardiac health and mental well-being, the researchers of the current study experimented in the laboratory of Geoffrey Abbott. The study titled ‘The ubiquitous flavonoid quercetin is an atypical KCNQ potassium channel activator’ in which the team discovered the quercetin from pickled capers which regulates potassium ion channels in the KCNQ gene family. KCNQ which means potassium voltage-gated channel subfamily Q belongs to a large family of genes that provide instructions for making potassium channels. Furthermore, these channels that play their role in transmitting the positively charged atoms of potassium out of cells and make the cell able to generate and transmit electrical signals.
A human body has more than 70 potassium channel genes but only some of these channels are linked to the disease. So, the KCNQ family of potassium channels is exceptional as the mutations in four out of five KCNQ genes underlie diseases including cardiac arrhythmias, deafness, diabetes, and epilepsy.
The researchers have found that the quercetin modulates the KCNQ channels by directly regulating how they sense electrical activity in the cell. They also found that a 1% amount gained from pickled capers resulted in the activation of those channels that are important for the normal human brain and heart activity. Capers have been used as a folk medicine for decades and currently being used as a potential treatment for cancer and diabetes. Capers have many anti-inflammatory properties, and their possible circulatory and gastrointestinal benefits.
Therefore, the current study suggests that the pickled capers enriched with quercetin can be beneficial for cardiac health and mental well-being. Heart diseases are the number cause of deaths around the globe. According to an estimation reported by The World Health Organization (WHO), around 17.9 million people die each year due to any cardiac event. On another hand, an estimated one in four people has been affected by a mental condition.
The current discovery can be beneficial for the future medical chemistry as the experts of medicine can make the therapeutic drugs not only from pickled capers but also from other foods that contain quercetin in it for the treatment of life-threatening diseases such as epilepsy and abnormal heart rhythms as well as for the healthy mind and heart.
Geoffrey Abbott, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the UCA-ISM said: “ Increasing the activity of KCNQ channels in different parts of the body is potentially highly beneficial. Synthetic drugs that do this have been used to treat epilepsy and show promise in preventing abnormal heart rhythms.”
This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.