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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Whole plant based treatment of hypercholesterolemia with Crataegus laevigata in a zebrafish model

Robert M Littleton1, Matthew Miller12 and Jay R Hove12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH, USA

2 Molecular and Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:105  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-105

Published: 23 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Consumers are increasingly turning to plant-based complementary and alternative medicines to treat hypercholesterolemia. Many of these treatments are untested and their efficacy is unknown. This multitude of potential remedies necessitates a model system amenable to testing large numbers of organisms that maintains similarity to humans in both mode of drug administration and overall physiology. Here we develop the larval zebrafish (4–30 days post fertilization) as a vertebrate model of dietary plant-based treatment of hypercholesterolemia and test the effects of Crataegus laevigata in this model.

Methods

Larval zebrafish were fed high cholesterol diets infused with fluorescent sterols and phytomedicines. Plants were ground with mortar and pestle into a fine powder before addition to food. Fluorescent sterols were utilized to optically quantify relative difference in intravascular cholesterol levels between groups of fish. We utilized the Zeiss 7-Live Duo high-speed confocal platform in order to both quantify intravascular sterol fluorescence and to capture video of the heart beat for determination of cardiac output.

Results

In this investigation we developed and utilized a larval zebrafish model to investigate dietary plant-based intervention of the pathophysiology of hypercholesterolemia. We found BODIPY-cholesterol effectively labels diet-introduced intravascular cholesterol levels (P < 0.05, Student’s t-test). We also established that zebrafish cardiac output declines as cholesterol dose increases (difference between 0.1% and 8% (w/w) high cholesterol diet-treated cardiac output significant at P < 0.05, 1-way ANOVA). Using this model, we found hawthorn leaves and flowers significantly reduce intravascular cholesterol levels (P < 0.05, 1-way ANOVA) and interact with cholesterol to impact cardiac output in hypercholesterolemic fish (2-way ANOVA, P < 0.05 for interaction effect).

Conclusions

The results of this study demonstrate that the larval zebrafish has the potential to become a powerful model to test plant based dietary intervention of hypercholesterolemia. Using this model we have shown that hawthorn leaves and flowers have the potential to affect cardiac output as well as intravascular cholesterol levels. Further, our observation that hawthorn leaves and flowers interact with cholesterol to impact cardiac output indicates that the physiological effects of hawthorn may depend on diet.