written by Heinrich Heinrichs PhD
In April 2014, an article was published in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE with the title “Soluble Extract from Moringa oleifera Leaves with New Anticancer Activity”. This article is freely available online via:
There is no doubt about the unmatched properties of Moringa in terms of its nutritional benefits. This is also true about the high concentration of proven active antioxidants.
The discussion is now taken to a new level and Moringa is discussed in the context of cancer prevention – not only in ordinary media, but in scientific reports as well. Indeed Moringa becomes more and more fascinating!
However, when discussed in the context of diseases like cancer it is important to take a closer look at the study and scrutinize it for its value. Not everything that is published on the Internet withstands scientific scrutiny. Usually, scientific articles are published in expensive journals made by scientists for scientists. The articles are peer-reviewed, which means, before an article is published, it is scrutinised and commented on by other scientists. This ensures that the quality of these articles are high and the content reliable.
This blog is intended to inform the interested reader and written in a way that is understandable not only to experts.
PLOS ONE is an international online journal of the Public Library of Science. By publishing on the internet, the time between the manuscript and the published article is reduced considerably. Important: Like in printed journals these articles online are also peer-reviewed. Therefore we can assume that the methods, representation, results and conclusions carry weight and relevancy.
The author, cell biologist Dr. Il Lae Jung, works for the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, KAERI, which is a highly respected science institution in South Korea.
All experiments which he did were done in-vitro.,meaning, in a testing tube and not in a living organism. Biologists distinguish between in-vitro and in-vivo research. In-vivo experiments include living organisms. This includes animal experiments, which the author of the study did not carry out.
So, what is it that was investigated regarding the effect of Moringa on cancer?
Dr. Jung approached his scientific questions through various experiments using the lungcancer line A549. These cells were taken from an affected lung tissue, bred and multiplied in a laboratory. He did following experiments:
1. Lung cancer cells were exposed to various concentrations of Moringa oleifera leaf extracts
Result: The higher the concentration of Moringa leaf extract, the lower the growth of lung cancer cells. At a certain concentration of Moringa leaf powder it was found that there was no growth of cancer cells. According to the author lung cancer cells show typical features of apoptosis. Apoptosis means dying of a cell according to a genetic program.
If there is in fact a programmed death of cancer cells this should be shown on the level of gene expression. In other words: Moringa has to influence these genes in the cancer cells that activate the self-programmed cell death. This lead to Dr. Jung’s next experiment.
2. Investigation of genes that are leading to apoptosis
Expressions of genes are molecular switches related to our DNA. An environmental trigger (e.g. taking Moringa) has an effect on cells. The “switch” Moringa influences makes the organism react to it. In our case we have to ask the question: Can Moringa manipulate these switches that lead to programmed death of cancer cells?
From research it is known that cancer cells possess genes that trigger cell death once they are activated. Therefore Dr. Jung followed up the behavior of exactly these genes under the influence of Moringa oleifera leaf extracts.
Result: Indeed he saw that Moringa triggers these genes that induce programmed cell death, i.e. apoptosis. In other words: With the presence of Moringa leave extracts there are components that lead to the suicide of lung cancer cells.
The author continued his experiments to support this result.
3. Comparing the effects of Moringa oleifera extracts on lung cancer cells and normal body cells
Finally, an important question to be answered is: Does Moringa extract act specifically on cancer cells? There is no gain if we just have a substance that is toxic to both cancer and body cells.
Therefore Dr. Jung compared the effect of Moringa extract on lung cancer cells and on cells derived from kidney cell cultures. The latter are also known as vero cells. They are also used to test various toxins from microbes.
Result: Cancer cells are inhibited in growth considerably – from a certain concentration onwards even completely. At these high concentrations the body cells are only inhibited in growth by 25 %! This shows very clearly that Moringa extract indeed acts specifically on cancer cells in vitro!
What is the conclusion of this study?
A solid piece of work that shows that Moringa extracts pushes lung cancer cells into suicide, while body cells are spared. But does this mean that a simple Moringa extract replaces expensive chemotherapy?
The study is not sufficient to come to this conclusion. We asked Dr. Jung about his opinion. He responded that this can only be done after in-vivo experiments, i.e. experiments with animals, followed by clinical trials with humans.
The study doesn’t allow claiming that Moringa cures cancer. However, they are indeed remarkable. We are excited for more future studies.