A new study has found that inhibitors of monoamine oxidases (MAOs), a family of enzymes that catalyse the oxidation of amines, may be repurposed for treating acute inflammation and used as a novel therapeutic target to develop a new class of anti-inflammatory agents.

Available drugs for inflammation target the “housekeeping enzyme” that preserves the normal physiological function called peripheral cyclooxygenase (COX-1, COX-2) enzymes. Most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) control the five signs of inflammation by compromising the body’s normal homeostasis. Thus, biomedical scientists are constantly exploring novel targets for inflammation management.

Taking a cue from earlier studies that showed MAO inhibitors (MAOI), used for depression, significantly reduced joint pain and stiffness, scientists from the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati, used an experimental animal model to repurpose MAOI as a new therapeutic target to develop novel anti-inflammatory drugs.

The researchers, led by Associate Professor Asis Bala, have explored the role of MAO mediated pathway in acute inflammation in an experimental animal model, says a press release.

The investigation found that MAO inhibitors may be re-profiled for treating acute inflammation.

The scientists have also experimentally proved that the MAO enzyme, a group of flavoenzymes that catalyse the oxidative deamination of dietary amines and biological amines, may be used as a novel therapeutic target to develop a new class of anti-inflammatory agents, the release says.

Dessication-tolerant hotspot

India’s biodiversity hotspot Western Ghats is home to 62 desiccation-tolerant vascular plant species, which could have applications in agriculture, particularly in areas with water scarcity. Vascular plants have vascular tissues — xylem and phloem — for transportation of water and nutrients.

Desiccation-tolerant (DT) vascular plants can withstand extreme dehydration, losing up to 95 per cent of their water content, and they revive themselves once water is available again. This allows them to survive in arid environments. In tropical regions, they are the predominant occupants of rock outcrops.

In India, DT plants have been relatively understudied. A recent study by scientists from Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, identified 62 DT species in the Western Ghats, way more than the nine known species previously.

The research, published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, includes an inventory of species with their habitat preferences. Sixteen species are Indian endemic, and 12 are exclusive to Western Ghats outcrops, highlighting the region’s importance as a global DT hotspot. In addition to rock outcrops, tree trunks in the partially shaded forests were also found to be crucial habitats for DT species, as per the study.

Nine genera of DT plants have been reported as new, with Tripogon capillatus representing the first record of an epiphytic DT angiosperm. The study also provides the first field observation-based proof of the DT properties of the gesneriad Corallodiscus lanuginosus. A time-lapse video records the hydration process of this species.

The team, led by Dr Mandar Datar and comprising Smrithy Vijayan, Aboli Kulkarni, and Bhushan Shigwan, collaborated with Dr Stefan Porembski, from Rostock University Germany, who is recognised as an expert on tropical rock outcrops.