Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have been found useful in biological systems and in medicine since they possess a large surface area to volume ratio, which confers on them several unique properties. In the present study, AgNPs that had been biosynthesized using an ethanolic extract of Tabernaemontana divaricata leaf were evaluated for putative antioxidant potential and efficacy in preventing experimental in-vitro selenite-induced opacification of the ocular lens (cataractogenesis). The antioxidant potential of the AgNPs was evaluated in-vitro by looking for radical-scavenging activity on 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) free radicals as well as by determining reducing power. The anticataractogenic potential of the AgNPs was evaluated in an in-vitro model of selenite-induced cataractogenesis in five groups of Wistar rat lenses cultured in Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (DMEM) for 24 h: Group I lenses (negative control) were cultured in DMEM alone; Group II lenses were exposed to sodium selenite alone (100 μM); Group III lenses were exposed simultaneously to sodium selenite and the T. divaricata extract (250 μg/ml); Group IV lenses were exposed simultaneously to sodium selenite and the biosynthesized AgNPs (125 μg/ml); and Group V lenses were exposed to the AgNPs alone. In these lenses, gross morphological changes, as well as activities of catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST), and levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) and malondialdehyde (MDA), were determined. In-vitro, the AgNPs (which were spherical in shape with an average diameter ranging from 15 to 50 nm) showed potent and concentration-dependent radical-scavenging activity on DPPH and H2O2 free radicals as well as reducing power. The gross morphological changes seen in the cultured rat lenses were: all eight control (Group I) lenses remained transparent; dense opacification was noted in all eight selenite-challenged untreated (Group II) lenses; in selenite-challenged, simultaneously T. divaricata extract-treated (Group III) lenses, no opacification occurred in seven of eight (87.5%) lenses and only minimal opacification in one (12.5%) lens; all the eight Group IV (selenite-challenged, simultaneously AgNPs-treated) lenses did not show any opacification; and all the eight Group V lenses (exposed to AgNPs alone) remained as transparent as control lenses. The mean activities of CAT, SOD, GPx and GST, and the mean levels of GSH, were significantly (p < 0.05) lower in Group II lenses than those in Groups I, III, IV and V lenses, while the mean MDA level was significantly (p < 0.05) higher in Group II lenses than those in Groups I, III, IV and V lenses; oxidative damage possibly occurred in Group II lenses, whereas this appears to have been prevented in Groups III and IV lenses. These observations suggest that the T. divaricata leaf ethanolic extract, and also the AgNPs biosynthesized using the T. divaricata extract, possess effective in-vitro antioxidant activity and the potential to prevent experimental selenite-induced opacification in cultured Wistar rat lenses.
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