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Vietnamese wedding food has the ability to repair human DNA

The Pharmaceutical and Natural Products Department based at The Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research looks to improve Thai medicinal plants in order to meet international standards for domestic use and exportation. The comet assay is used by Dr. Prapaipat Klungsupya and her colleagues for determining anti-oxidative DNA damage induced by phenolic compounds.

…daily consumption of gac significantly improved vitamin levels in plasma…

Recently, the comet assay has been used to determine the anti-oxidant activity of Momordica cochinchinensis fruit on human cells which have had their DNA damaged by hydrogen peroxide treatment. M. cochinchinensis is commonly known in Vietnam as “gac” and, because it has a relatively short harvest season, it is less abundant than other foods. Gac is typically served at ceremonial or festive occasions in Vietnam, such weddings. It is most commonly prepared as a dish called xôi gấc, in which the fruit are cooked in rice. Previous to this investigation, a 30-day supplementation trial in Vietnam found that daily consumption of xôi gấc significantly improved plasma levels of retinol (vitamin A), alpha- and beta-carotenes and lycopene. Using the Comet Assay software, the tail length and tail moment of the comets from human cells treated with and without a gac extract were analysed.

“The Comet Assay software is wonderful to use” - Dr. Klungsupya

It was concluded that the gac extraction was able to repair DNA following oxidative damage. This effect was due to the ability of the gac extract to scavenge reactive oxygen species. Naturally occurring reactive oxygen species are potential oxidative agents that can convert to free radicals. If they are present in excess, then they can lead to enzyme inactivation, lipid oxidisation and DNA damage. This case study shows the importance of the comet assay in the development of international medicines.