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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2018, Vol. 16 ›› Issue (4): 290-296.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2018.05.003

• Original Experimental Research • Previous Articles    

Preliminary optimization of a Chinese herbal medicine formula based on the neuroprotective effects in a rat model of rotenone-induced Parkinson’s disease

Xu-xia Bao a, b, Hui-han Ma a, b, Hao Ding a, b, Wen-wei Li a, b, Min Zhu c   

  1. a Department of Integrative Neurology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China
    b Institute of Neurology, Institutes of Integrative Medicine of Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China
    c Shanghai Key Laboratory of Visual Impairment and Restoration, Eye & ENT Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200030, China
  • Received:2017-12-10 Accepted:2018-04-15 Online:2018-07-09 Published:2018-05-22
  • Contact: Wen-wei Li; E-mail: Min Zhu; E-mail:

The main objective of this study was to preliminarily determine the optimum formulation of a Chinese herbal formula that may have neuroprotective effects against rotenone-induced Parkinson’s disease (PD).


Seven recipes were made from Dihuang (DH, Rehmannia glutinosa Libosch), Roucongrong (RCR, Cistanche deserticolaY.C.Ma), Niuxi (NX, Achyranthes bidentata Bl.) and Shanzhuyu (SZY, Cornus officinalis Sieb. et Zucc) in different proportions, according to the principles of uniform design (4 factors 7 levels). Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) were detected by immunohistochemistry and rotenone-exposure days necessary to induce PD symptoms were recorded. To probe one likely mechanism of the formulas, echinacoside (ECH) concentrations of all seven recipes were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography and related to number of TH-positive neurons.


The data showed that recipe 4 (DH:RCR:SZY:NX?=?1:1:1:1) and recipe 7 (DH:RCR:SZY:NX?=?7:5:3:1) partially reversed rotenone-induced death of TH-positive neurons in the SNpc and significantly increased rotenone-exposed days compared with model group. Pharmacologically, there was not a strong correlation between ECH concentration and TH-positive neurons.


The investigated formulations of Chinese herbs had neuroprotective effects against PD models, and the neuroprotective effects were weakly related to the proportion of key herbs. However the neuroprotective effects of the formula may not result from a single active constituent.

Key words: Parkinson’s disease, Rotenone, Chinese herb, Echinacoside, Uniform design

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