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Dangerous substances that lurk in botanical foods

Potentially lethal substances known as human Ether-à-go-go Related Gene (hERG) channel blockers can be found in many botanical products. Researchers have gained a better understanding of the dangers of this after collecting and analysing plants from all over the world.

Food and Natural Resources

Some commonly consumed botanical products contain compounds known as hERG channel blockers. Blocking this potassium channel in the human body may lead to raised and irregular heart rates and sudden death. The exact number of botanical products that contain hERG inhibitors is mainly unknown, and this poses a health risk to consumers around the world. The EU-funded HERGSCREEN (hERG related risk assessment of botanicals) initiative worked to identify dangerous hERG channel blockers in common botanicals and supplements. The research effort required a network of European, North American, South African and South American researchers. HERGSCREEN started by collecting 415 commonly consumed plant species from all the regions represented; these species are used for their health and nutritional values. The researchers then developed 3D models to identify compounds that could potentially interact with the hERG channel. The researchers identified 23 extracts that blocked the hERG channel, and they then continued with phytochemical investigations and screening. After isolating 60 compounds from these extracts, they discovered 13 compounds to be hERG inhibitors of varying concentrations. These results will help bring light to potential cardiotoxic risks associated with the consumption of common botanical products to improve consumer and patient safety.


hERG channel blockers, botanical products, hERG inhibitors, health, HERGSCREEN

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