Crocus sativus L. aqueous extract reduces atherogenesis, increases atherosclerotic plaque stability and improves glucose control in diabetic atherosclerotic animals.
Atherosclerosis. 2017 Nov 1. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29128090
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: We aimed to evaluate a possible atheroprotective effect of saffron aqueous extract (SFE), and its potential anti-inflammatory mechanisms, in apoE knockout (ApoE-/-) mice.
METHODS: Fifty male, ApoE-/- mice, fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks, were randomized into 5 groups: (1) baseline group, euthanatized, without intervention, (2) three saffron groups, receiving HFD and 30,60,90 mg/kg/day of SFE, respectively, for four weeks, per os through gavage, after reconstitution in water for injection (WFI), (3) control group (COG), receiving daily HFD and the same volume of WFI (four weeks). After blood sampling and euthanasia, aortic roots were excised and analyzed for gene expression and/or percentage of aortic stenosis, relative content of macrophages, smooth muscle cells (SMCs), connective tissue, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), matrix metalloproteinases-2,-3,-9 (MMP-2,-3,-9) and their inhibitor (TIMP-2) and IL-6. SFE doseswere determined by a pilot serum pharmacokinetic study in C57BL/6J wild-type mice.
RESULTS: SFE did not affect body weight and total cholesterol levels (p > 0.05), while high SFE dose significantly ameliorated glucose and triglycerides profiles compared to other groups (p < 0.05). SFE considerably decreased aortic stenosis in a dose-dependent manner (p < 0.05). Furthermore, increasing SFE doses proportionally reduced macrophages content and increased within plaques content of collagen, elastin, and SMCs, promoting more stable plaque phenotype compared to COG (p < 0.05). Those effects seemed to be associated with a considerable reduction (>30%) in IL-6, TNF-α, MCP-1, MMP-2,-3,-9 (p < 0.05) and MMP-2/TIMP-2 ratio.
CONCLUSIONS: SFE exerted dose-dependent anti-atherosclerotic and plaque-stabilizing effects in Apo-E-/- mice, probably mediated by a favorable modification of inflammatory mechanisms, which requires further investigation.