As main component of essential oils, terpenes can inhibit the growth of different cancer cells. Researchers from the Ruhr-University Bochum headed by Prof Dr Dr Dr Hanns Hatt have analysed this process in liver cancer cells in detail. They shed light upon the molecular mechanisms that resulted in cancer cells stop growing, following the application of (-)-citronellal, and they proved that the olfactory receptor OR1A2 is the crucial molecule for that purpose. In future, the olfactory receptor could serve as target for liver cancer diagnosis and therapy. The researchers report their findings in the journal
Essential oils protect not only from bacteria, viruses and fungi
Essential oils occur in many plants, protecting them through their antibacterial, antiviral and fungicidal properties. It has been recently discovered that terpenes, the oils’ main components, can also inhibit the growth of different cancer cells, including liver cancer. Their function had not previously been fully understood.
Olfactory receptors not just in the nose
Terpenes can trigger signalling processes in cells by activating olfactory receptors. Those receptors are mainly located in the nose, but they have been proved to occur 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 which function exactly they fulfil.
The calcium influx into the liver carcinoma cell can be monitored following the exposure to citronellal (pictured in pseudo-colours)
Monoterpene (-)-citronellal affects hepatocarcinoma cell signaling via an olfactory receptor, D. Maßberg et al.,