Flavonolignans are the main components of silymarin, which represents 1.5–3% of the dry fruit weight of Milk thistle (Silybum marianum
L. Gaernt.). In ancient Greece and Romania, physicians and herbalists used the Silybum marianum
to treat a range of liver diseases. Besides their hepatoprotective action, silymarin flavonolignans have many other healthy properties, such as anti-platelet and anti-inflammatory actions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the toxic effect of flavonolignans on blood platelets, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and human lung cancer cell line—A549—using different molecular techniques. We established that three major flavonolignans: silybin, silychristin and silydianin, in concentrations of up to 100 µM, have neither a cytotoxic nor genotoxic effect on blood platelets, PMBCs and A549. We also saw that silybin and silychristin have a protective effect on cellular mitochondria, observed as a reduction of spontaneous mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage in A549, measured as mtDNA copies, and mtDNA lesions in ND1
genes. Additionally, we observed that flavonolignans increase the blood platelets’ mitochondrial membrane potential and reduce the generation of reactive oxygen species in blood platelets. Our current findings show for the first time that the three major flavonolignans, silybin, silychristin and silydianin, do not have any cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in various cellular models, and that they actually protect cellular mitochondria. This proves that the antiplatelet and anti-inflammatory effect of these compounds is part of our molecular health mechanisms.
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