The main components of so-called “essential oils,” are molecules called “terpenes” and terpenes have previously been shown to be capable of inhibiting the growth of different cancer cells. A research team from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, and headed by Professor Hanns Hatt, has now analyzed this cancer inhibition process in liver cancer cells in rigorous detail. Their new work sheds significant light upon the molecular mechanisms underlying the cessation of cancer cell growth following the application of the terpene (-)-citronellal, and the scientists proved that the olfactory receptor OR1A2 is the crucial molecule in this process. In the future, the scientists suggest, this particular olfactory receptor could serve as a target for liver cancer diagnosis and therapy. The researchers reported their findings in an article published online on January 15, 2015 in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Essential oils occur in many plants, protecting them through the oils’ antibacterial, antiviral, and fungicidal properties. It has recently been discovered that terpenes, the main components of essential oils, can also inhibit the growth of different cancer cells, including those of liver cancer. The function of essential oils had not previously been fully understood. Terpenes can trigger signaling processes in cells by activating olfactory receptors. These receptors are mainly located in the nose, but have been proven to exist in all types of human tissue, including skin, prostate, and spermatozoa. Carcinogenesis and cancer growth are likewise significantly affected by terpenes, even though it has not been understood exactly what function these molecules fulfill.
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