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Promising results from New Zealand studies
Studies at Invermay research center, Otago, New Zealand, are believed to be the only systematic scientific investigation into the medical properties of velvet in the Western world.

The project is being run in association with the Universities of Canterbury and Otago. Dr. Peter Fennesy, general manager of the center, leads the seventy strong velvet research team.

Although he is cautious about drawing conclusions from the research completed to date, he says initial findings are very promising. In their first "in vitro" cell line studies, the Invermay team has found that velvet extracts do improve cell growth and also have anti-tumor and anti-viral properties.

The study team uses cell lines which have been cultured for several generations in the laboratory. Cell lines are used instead of live animals in this research and in many studies used to test the medicinal potential of new drugs.

During an investigation into the factors which make velvet grow, the Invermay group measured a natural hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1. High levels of IGF-1 were found in deer blood during the antler growth periods as well as receptors to IGF-1 in the antler itself.

Dr. Fennesy's team found that IGF-1 and IGF-2 (a related hormone) promoted growth in laboratory cell lines, comprised of mouse leukemia cells, while in velvet extract was shown to slow the growth of tumor cells. Anti-viral and anti-microbial tests with velvet extract were also positive.

Despite these promising results, Dr. Fennesy is quick to point out there is a huge difference between getting an effect on a complex living organism such as a human being. He emphasizes that many more years of research will be needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

The Invermay trials are helping lift the veil of mystery covering deer velvet and it's health-giving powers.

Although velvet has been used traditionally in Oriental medicine for 2000 years there has been little scientific research carried out in the West to back up the claims made by the traditional practitioners and their patients.

Much of the Western research into the properties of velvet extracts has been carried out by Russian scientists using pantocrin.

In 1974, Drs. Yudin and Dobryakov found that pantocrin improved performance of average healthy sportsmen. Control athletes on the exercise cycle performed 15kg/m dynamic work, whereas those given pantocrin increased this considerably to 74 kg/m.

Another Russian scientist, Dr. Taneyeve, produced research in 1964 claiming that the mental capacity of young men was improved following Pantocrin administration prior to a mathematical test.

Pantocrin and other naturally occurring substances, he said, acted by accelerating the body's natural restorative processes and by increasing the body's resistance to unfavorable influence.

Reinforcing this view, Dr. Fennesy says there is experimental evidence to suggest that treatment with velvet preparations can protect against later shock or stress. He cites Russian studies which report that patients treated with velvet extract prior to surgery for gastrointestinal tumors had significantly lower levels of stress indicators in their blood.

Velvet may also have an anti-aging effect according to studies by Japanese scientist Wang and his associated in 1988. Other Japanese scientist, Drs. Takikawa and Kajhara, discovered in the early 1970's that pantocrin speed up the healing process of damaged neural tissue. In 1972, Ueki and his colleagues carried out a study on patients with cervical injuries using pantocrin and found that the substance helped recovery.

Reprinted from "The Deer Farmer", a magazine produced by the New Zealand Game Industry Board and endorsed by the Hon, John Falloon, Minister of Agriculture, Government of New Zealand.
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