It's the mysterious substance that turns workers into honey beans to queens and fills shelves in health food stores that…
It’s the mysterious substance that turns workers into honey beans to queens and fills shelves in health food stores that exercise their unqualified powers to prevent aging, improve fertility and revive the immune system.
Whether royal jelly has real health benefits for humans is a matter for more research, but in one study, researchers have cracked one of the most lasting puzzles surrounding the milky globe: the secret of their queen magic.
The discovery promises to have an impact far beyond the niche field of melittology. Armed with the results, researchers now explore potential new treatments for wounds and disorders such as muscle waste and neurodegenerative disease.
Researchers at Stanford University found that the main active component of royal jelly, a protein called royalactin, activates a network of genes that enhance the stamina’s ability to renew themselves. This means that with royalactin, an organism can produce more stem cells to build and repair.
“We have a highly identifiable avenue through which royal jelly effects are performed,” said Kevin Wang, who led the Stanford team. “It has this activity to keep stem cells in a self-renewing state.”
Royal jelly has fascinated researchers because its dramatic impact on honeybee development became clear first. But its effects on other animals have given even greater interest. Previous studies have shown that royal jelly can improve the lifespan of a number of animals from nematode masks to mice.
Writing in the magazine Nature Communications shows the Stanford team that royalactin increased the ability of the muscle cells to renew, suggesting that the protein may have biological effects over species.
The researchers wondered if a protein similar to the royalactin honeybein might be active for humans. After searching for scientific databases, they found one that should have a similar structure. The protein is active in the earliest stages of human embryonic development, when it intends to build up embryonic stem cell delivery. In terms of denoting the protein, Wang Beyoncé suggested “a fine name for human queen bite” – but settled for the queen, Latin for Queen.
“Everything points to the fact that this is a very important molecule,” Wang said. “We have identified an early self-renewal molecule that we believe helps to establish the source cells of all embryonic stem cells.”
According to Wang, regina could initiate new treatments for disorders caused by cells die-like, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart failure and muscle failure. The team is now investigating the protein in more detail with the hope of finding drugs that mimic their behavior in the body. If such drugs can be found, they can help doctors regenerate the worn or damaged tissues of the patients by increasing their stem cells.
Wang believes that the evolutionary process that led to royalactin in honey bees was reflected in other organisms and gave rise to the regina protein in humans. Because the proteins are similar to species, they produce some of the same effects in different animals. “Our work explains for the first time why royal gel from honeybees may be useful to other organisms,” he said.
For all its research on the subject, Wang does not recommend royal jelly. “We do not condemn that everyone goes out and buy royal jelly,” he said. Testing on products purchased online found that some did not contain any royalactin, he said. “It’s not all that’s done the same.”