Cell cultures

Various mistletoe preparations have been tested for their impact on the growth of cultured murine and human tumour cell lines, fibroblasts, and lymphocytes (Selawry et al., 1961; Vester et at., 1968; Khwaja et al., 1980b, 1986; Hülsen and Mechelke, 1982; Hülsen et al., 1986; Ribereau-Gayon et al., 1986a,b; Kuttan et al., 1988; Doser et al., 1989; Jung et al., 1990; Dietrich et al., 1992; Jurin et al., 1993; Janssen et al., 1993; Beuth et al., 1994b; Zarkovic et al., 1995, 1998; Büssing et al., 1995b, 1996d; Büssing and Schietzel, 1999; Urech et al., 1995; Schaller et al., 1996; Drees et al., 1996; Hostanska et al., 1998; Staak et al., 1998; Lenartz et al., 1998). Overall, the studies found that the degree of cell growth inhibition varied according to the cell type, method of preparation, host tree, and subspecies of mistletoe plants. In fact, the ML content varies within the season and within different host trees (Franz, 1989).

In mice and cell cultures, fermented VA-E were less cytotoxic than the fresh plant extracts (Bloksma et al., 1982; Khwaja et al., 1986; Jung et al., 1990, Büssing et al., 1996d), but the drug extracts containing the squeezed sap were more cytotoxic than aqueous extracts (Büssing et al., 1996d; Büssing and Schietzel, 1999). These differences may depend on the sensitivity of the cell line, since fermented drugs contain low amounts of ML and are less cytotoxic to the leukemic Molt 4 cells than fresh plant extracts but slightly more potent in inhibiting the growth of hepatoma tissue culture (HTC) cells (Ribereau-Gayon et al., 1986). Using purified ML, the Molt 4 cells were more sensitive to the MLs than the HTC cells (Ribereau-Gayon et al., 1986) or Yoshida sarcoma cells (Urech et al., 1995).

According to anthroposophic philosophy, mistletoe from the apple tree is recommended to treat women (i.e., with breast cancer). Although this sounds peculiar, uptake of [3H]-thymidine in the DNA of mitogen-activated lymphocytes from healthy females was more effectively suppressed by the addition of a VA-E from apple trees than that of healthy men (Büssing et al., 1995b). Furthermore, sex-specific differences in the responses to VA-E were reported by Hülsen and coworkers (Hülsen et al., 1992; Hülsen and Born, 1993). Because of the complexity of actions, several researchers have attempted to define and purify the main biologically active components present in Viscum album.

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