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The Momordica charantia L., (family: Cucurbitaceae) is a scientific name of the plant and its fruit. It is also known by other names, for instance in the USA it is known as Bitter gourd or balsam pear while its referred to as the African cucumber in many African countries. This study was specifically designed to investigate the cellular mechanisms whereby alpha, beta momorcharin an extract of M. charantiacan induce cell death measuring the elevation in intracellular free calcium concentrations in three different cancer cell lines 1321N1, Gos-3 and U-87. The results show that incubation of the three cancer cell lines 1321N1, Gos-3 and U-87 with α, β momorcharin can result in significant (p < 0.05) time-dependent increases in [Ca2+]i in all three cancer cell lines compared to control (untreated) cells. Maximal increases in [Ca2+]i was attained after 420 min of incubation.In control (untreated cell lines), [Ca2+]i remained more or less stable in both cell lines after 420 min. The results also show that the increase in [Ca2+]i in Gos-3 cell line was much more pronounced following incubation with α, β momorcharin compared to 1321N1 and U-87 cell line. The results show that incubation of the three cancer cell lines with momorcharin can result in significant (p < 0.05) time-dependent increases in [Ca2+]i in all three cancer cell lines compared to control (untreated) cells. Maximal increases in [Ca2+]i was attained after 420 min of incubation. In control (untreated cell lines), [Ca2+]i remained more or less stable in all three cell lines after 420 min. These results clearly show that α, β momorcharin extract of M. charantia is exerting its anti- cancer effect via an insult to the mitochondria resulting in apoptosis, calcium overloading and subsequently, cell death.
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