Amyloidosis is the umbrella term given to a number of diseases caused by abnormal levels of the protein amyloid, a febrile plaque that builds up in the internal organs and interferes with their function.
Offspring of familial amyloidoses sufferers have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the condition.
In in vitro tests, Jeffrey Kelly PhD and his team found that genistein can inhibit the formation of amyloid, which is caused by the misfolding of the human protein transthyretin (TTR). TTR is responsible for carrying thyroid hormone and vitamin A through the bloodstream.
Kelly found that genistein can stabilize TTR and prevent it from misfolding in a test tube environment. His findings are due to be published in the October 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although preclinical and clinical in vivo studies would have to be conducted to ascertain whether the same action occurs in humans, the researchers are encouraged that genistein may one day be confirmed as a safe, effective treatment for familial amyloidoses sufferers.
Some studies have indicated that soy may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer - a link that seems to be borne out by the lower incidence of cancer in parts of the world where soy is an important dietary staple. Research is currently underway to assess the potential of genistein (which is also be derived from shiitake mushrooms) in preventing breast, prostate and uterine cancers.
In particular, a trial investigating whether genistein concentrated polysaccharide (GCP) supplements can slow or halt the progression of early prostate cancer in men who are on active surveillance for the disease got underway at the University of California Davis Cancer Center last summer.
GCP is already used as a complementary therapy for prostate cancer in Japan, Korea and other parts of Asia.