Garlic is generally considered as a crop species which is beneficial for human health. However the mechanisms behind the health beneficial effects of garlic are poorly understood. Furthermore, the knowledge on the formation of health beneficial compounds in garlic is also insufficient for a science based garlic cultivation for pharmaceutical purposes. The aim of this European framework V project is to fill these gaps. This will take place in a unique combined European effort which brings together plant and human health scientists.
The production of garlic (Allium sativum L.) in Europe is concentrated in the Mediterranean countries. The price of European garlic is high, especially in comparison with Chinese garlic. This price difference could severely threaten the European garlic growers if there was a free market in Europe for garlic. However, to protect the European garlic growers the European Commission issued in 1993 a regulation that only 12000 tons of Chinese garlic can be imported annually. The main objective of the plant part of the project is to develop methods, through improved seed technology and genetics, which will enable the European garlic growers to meet the internal demand for high quality products and to compete on the international level. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are by far the leading causes of death and morbidity in the EU. The health cost spent on the treatment of these diseases reaches many billion euros. Garlic has been used for a long time as food with many therapeutic effects. Its beneficial effects are directly linked to its sulphur metabolism. Detailed studies on the mechanisms underlying cancer and cardio-vascular diseases are lacking, especially studies with defined garlic preparations and compounds are poorly found. Therefore the main objective of the health part of the project is the analysis of the role of garlic for the prevention of chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer through cellular, molecular and clinical studies in cells, animals and humans. Specific biomarkers will be identified as indicators for the modulation of these diseases on the cellular and tissue level and in humans as a basis for new intervention studies.
There are two main scientific objectives in this project, firstly to understand and improve the production of garlic bio-active compounds by sophisticated breeding techniques, and secondly to improve the understanding of the role of garlic as diet and as therapy in promoting and sustaining health and preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis through cellular, molecular and clinical studies as safe and low cost therapy and preventive agent. Further, we aim to identify the mechanisms by which garlic interferes with the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis and the development of cancer in cells, animals and humans. Two technological objectives are also pursued for industrial potential applications: garlic mass propagation of elite clones, to enable cropping and processing of high quality products, and the development of new garlic pharmaceutical formulations with improved properties and quality for the therapy and prevention of chronic diseases.
The project is organised into nine interrelated workpackages (WPs): WP one concerns the evaluation of the gene pool for organo-sulphur traits and fertility and the construction of a core collection; in WP two a reliable genetic transformation system and a mass propagation method will be developed and the sexual hybridisation system studied; in WP three the interaction between genotype and environment will be evaluated; WP four involves the analyses of the biochemistry of the sulphur pathway in garlic; WP five will examine the influence of garlic compounds on the patho-mechanisms of cardio-vascular diseases like atherosclerosis, especially the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis, further the enzymes involved in signal transduction regulating cholesterol metabolism and the action and efficacy of garlic preparations in transgenic mice as models for human-like hyperlipidaemia and atherosclerosis. WP six deals with the influence of garlic on the development of cancer, especially the activation and detoxification of carcinogens and prevention of carcinogen genotoxicity as well as the inhibition of the initiation of hepato-carcinogenesis, the metabolism of garlic compounds in tissues, animals and humans and the signalling pathway of apoptosis induction. WP seven will focus on pharmaceutical aspects of new formulations, especially the analysis of existing products on the market and of formulations and on the development of in vitro dissolution systems and analytical methods for the evaluation of indicative release parameters. Further, the development of improved bio-available formulations and preparation of study medication will be performed. WP eight finally will aim at garlic and its bio-availability and metabolic fate in humans and its activity relating to cancer and atherosclerosis with evaluation of inflammatory and cancer biomarkers.