“We had a eureka moment in our research labs when we stumbled upon what Nerium oleander could do for skin.” –Dennis Knocke, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Nerium Biotechnology, Inc. We suspect the real eureka moment happened when they stumbled upon what Nerium oleander could do for their pocketbooks.
What a Great idea!
One need not be a rocket scientist to see the dots that when connected lead to the launch of Nerium AD. Real science and real research at a prestigious institution having to do with a known plant toxin that shows beneficial effect in killing off cancer cells and preventing viral replication and drugs in the pipeline for eventual FDA approval (everyone hopes.)
“But that can take a decade or more and cost over a billion dollars to get to market! Can’t we make a buck faster and easier than that? ”
“Well, sure you can. Take the captivating and intriguing story about the search for a wonder drug, already cloaked in the aura of high science at an internationally renowned institution, and morph it into something that can rapidly enter a huge consumer marketplace that is growing by leaps and bounds, create a viral type marketing scheme, and presto, instant success and lots and lots of cash because there is something in it for everyone. Never mind that the science doesn’t quite hold together.”
“What did you say? The science doesn’t hold together?”
Let’s explain why BFT remains skeptical.
The Nerium website includes reports that oleandrin, when applied to the skin in the formulation being marketed, does not result in blood plasma levels of concern. In other words, the amount of oleandrin that is reaching the systemic circulation is well below the threshold required to cause toxic consequences. That is a good thing.
And we know that oleandrin is very likely easily absorbed through the stratum corneum of the skin because: 1) it is lipophilic (“fat loving”), and 2) it has a low molecular weight of only 576 daltons, just above the 500 dalton threshold where penetration starts to become affected by molecular weight. So what is being put on the skin is in all likelihood getting through. That would be a good thing if oleandrin actually enhances skin cell survival and function. There is information on the Nerium website that indicates this is probably not the case. Remember, oleandrin kills cancer cells. There’s a reason for that, as published by Dr. Newman.
Newman RA et al: “Oleandrin-mediated oxidative stress in human melanoma cells”; Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, Vol. 5, pp. 167-181, 2006
While certain cardiac glycoside compounds such as oleandrin, bufalin and digitoxin are known to be associated with potent cytotoxicity to human tumor cells, the mechanisms by which this effect is produced are not clear. We now demonstrate that incubation of human malignant melanoma BRO cells with oleandrin results in a time-dependent formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Use of Mito-SOX and dihydroethidine dyes revealed the presence of oleandrin-mediated superoxide anions. Formation of superoxide anions correlated with a loss in cellular viability, proliferation and cellular defense mechanisms such as GSH content. Oleandrin also resulted in an unusual time-dependent mitochondrial condensation in BRO cells that could be blocked with use of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). NAC was also shown to block ROS formation and partially prevent oleandrin-mediated loss of cellular GSH. Taken as a whole, the data suggest that exposure of human tumor cells such as BRO to oleandrin results in the formation of superoxide anion radicals that mediate mitochondrial injury and loss of cellular GSH pools. These mechanisms play a role in cardiac glycoside mediated tumor cell injury. Conversely, incubation of NAC, a precursor to GSH, largely prevents oleandrin mediated inhibition of proliferation and mitochondrial structural changes.
There is nothing in here to suggest that this is specific to melanoma cells, or cancer cells in general. In fact the metabolic pathways are present in all cells. So, either the oleandrin concentration in NeriumAD is negligible, or the oleandrin in the product may well be doing harm rather than benefiting skin cells. BFT has written about radical oxygen species and skin aging elsewhere and a web search of skin aging and reactive oxygen species yields reams of references that link the two. After all, the whole concept of applying antioxidants to the skin is about combating the deleterious effects of ROS. On this basis, oleandrin does not sound like something a formulator of an anti-aging product would consider a beneficial active.
Now, there is the theory of hormesis that says if you stress cells or tissues constantly they become tougher and better able to withstand stress.
Maybe that is what nerium oleander extract is doing.
Maybe its like a survival of the fittest cells. Any cells not killed by this stuff are better cells, and deserve to live.
Or maybe it’s like in drosophila where killing off cells causes neighboring cells to grow. Terrorist cells- killing themselves so that others will take notice, and clean up their act.
Or maybe this substance is as benign as potato juice and this whole history is just a diversion. Look, its science. OK, its in the wrong field, but lets not quibble lets talk about how much money YOU can make selling this for me.
Ingredients: NAE-8™ Proprietary Blend (Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Liquid, Nerium Oleander Leaf), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Liquid, Proprietary Protein (Plant derived: Collagen, Elastin, Glycosaminoglycans), Glycerin, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, C14-22 Alcohols, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Glucoside and Cetearyl Alcohol, Vegetable Oil, Dicaprylyl Ether, Sodium Borate, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) Powder, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylate, Dimethicone, Sodium PCA, Proprietary Blend (Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Phenylpropanol), Fragrance, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)