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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The cardioprotective effect of danshen and gegen decoction on rat hearts and cardiomyocytes with post-ischemia reperfusion injury

Fan Hu134, Chi-Man Koon23, Judy Yuet-Wa Chan23, Kit-Man Lau3 and Kwok-Pui Fung2345*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, Anhui, PR China

2 State Key Laboratory of Phytochemistry & Plant Resources in West China, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong

3 Institute of Chinese Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong

4 School of Biomedical Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong

5 509A, Lo Kwee-Seong Integrated Biomedical Sciences Building, Area 39, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong SAR, China

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:249  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-249

Published: 10 December 2012



Danshen (Salviae Miltiorrhizae Radix) and Gegen (Puerariae Lobatae Radix) have been used for treating heart disease for several thousand years in China. It has been found that a Danshen and Gegen decoction (DG) exhibiting an anti-atherosclerosis effect, which improves the patients’ heart function recovery. Pre-treatment with DG was reported to have protective effects on myocardium against ischemia/reperfusion injury. In the present study, we aim to investigate the post-treatment effect of DG on ischemic-reperfusion injuries ex vivo or in vitro and the underlying mechanisms involved.


The rat heart function in an ischemia and reperfusion (I/R) model was explored by examining three parameters including contractile force, coronary flow rate and the release of heart specific enzymes within the heart perfusate. In vitro model of hypoxia and reoxygenation (H/R), the protective effect of DG on damaged cardiomyocytes was investigated by examining the cell structure integrity, the apoptosis and the functionality of mitochondria.


Our results showed that DG significantly improved rat heart function after I/R challenge and suppressed the release of enzymes by damaged heart muscles in a dose-dependent manner. DG also significantly inhibited the death of cardiomyocytes, H9c2 cells, with a H/R challenge. It obviously decreased cell apoptosis, protected the mitochondrial function and cell membrane skeleton integrity on H9c2 cells. The cardio-protection was also found to be related to a decrease in intracellular calcium accumulation within H9c2 cells after I/R challenge.


The potential application of DG in treating rat hearts with an I/R injury has been implied in this study. Our results suggested that DG decoction could act as an anti-apoptotic and anti-ion stunning agent to protect hearts against an I/R injury.

Danshen and Gegen decoction; Ischemia and reperfusion; Hypoxia and reoxygenation; Apoptosis; Calcium