Hochu-ekki-to (Bojungikgi-Tang (BJIGT) in Korea; Bu-Zhong-Yi-Qi Tang in Chinese), a traditional herbal prescription, has been widely used in Asia. Hochu-ekki-to (HET) is used to enhance the immune system in respiratory disorders, improve the nutritional status associated with chronic diseases, enhance the mucosal immune system, and improve learning and memory. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is pathologically characterized by motor neuron cell death and muscle paralysis, and is an adult-onset motor neuron disease. Several pathological mechanisms of ALS have been reported by clinical and in vitro
studies using ALS models. However, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive, and the critical pathological target needs to be identified before effective drugs can be developed for patients with ALS. Since ALS is a disease involving both motor neuron death and skeletal muscle paralysis, suitable therapy with optimal treatment effects would involve a motor neuron target combined with a skeletal muscle target. Herbal medicine is effective for complex diseases because it consists of multiple components for multiple targets. Therefore, we investigated the effect of the herbal medicine HET on motor function and survival in hSOD1G93A
transgenic mice. HET was orally administered once a day for 6 weeks from the age of 2 months (the pre-symptomatic stage) of hSOD1G93A
transgenic mice. We used the rota-rod test and foot printing test to examine motor activity, and Western blotting and H&E staining for evaluation of the effects of HET in the gastrocnemius muscle and lumbar (L4–5) spinal cord of mice. We found that HET treatment dramatically inhibited inflammation and oxidative stress both in the spinal cord and gastrocnemius of hSOD1G93A
transgenic mice. Furthermore, HET treatment improved motor function and extended the survival of hSOD1G93A
transgenic mice. Our findings suggest that HET treatment may modulate the immune reaction in muscles and neurons to delay disease progression in a model of ALS.
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