About this Research Topic
Background: Edible Bird’s nest (EBN), or cubilose or in Chinese named “Yanwo”, is a popular delicacy in Asian Pacific region. EBN is a salivary secretion from several Aerodramus spp. swiftlets, mainly Aerodramus fuciphagus, originated in Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The historical record of EBN for human consumption can be tracked back to about 1,500 years ago in China. Today, the consumption of EBN as food, or as medicinal product, is very common in Asian population. According to ancient literature, EBN is able to alleviate respiratory health conditions such as asthma, and is believed to have an impact in skin physiology. However, despite the potential functional roles and popularity of this ethnomedicine in Asian cultures, the pharmacological research on EBN is still very limited. One of the major obstacles in this field is the solubility of proteins within EBN, even though EBN contains over 50% protein by weight. The proven effects of EBN extract include anti-viral activity, promoting cell growth and skin whitening. Coincidentally, these pharmacological effects are proposed to be based on the mechanism of an active ingredient, N-acetylneuraminic acid (NANA). However, NANA could not be only major active component found in EBN. In addition, several lines of evidence indicate that EBN could potentially treat diabetes, obesity and various forms of inflammation. These claims of beneficial effects are questionable due to lacking strong supporting experimental evidence. The production of EBN today is totally depending on swiftlets. The natural habitat of swiftlet is varied according to their surrounding environment, and therefore which great affects the final product of EBN. Foreign contaminants not related to bioactive proteins or peptides secreted from the swiftlet are frequently identified. The chemical variation, as well as possible contaminants, of EBN is inevitable leading to possible risks for the consumers. Nevertheless, the scientific community should provide experimental evidence in identifying chemical composition, pharmacological property and diversity of contaminant of EBN.
Goal: Without a full understanding of EBN in chemical composition and functional properties, the common consumption of EBN may not be appropriated. In view of the high nutraceutical values, this collection of scientific research papers on EBN is aiming to stimulate communication, as well as to test and consolidate the findings in health benefits and risks of consuming EBN.
Scope: This Research Topic welcomes papers from: (i) correlation between physical and chemical parameters of EBN; (ii) chemical composition of EBN from different origins; (iii) proteomics profiling of EBN; and quality control markers for EBN and/or its products; (iv) pharmacological functions of EBN or its components; (v) chemical diversity and possible contaminant of EBN.
All manuscripts must comply with the four pillars of best practice in Ethnopharmacology.
1) Pharmacological Requirements:
a) Traditional context - The traditional context must be described in the introduction.
b) Credible experimental models - methods must be state of the art, or a credible alternative. The following have specific requirements:
- FRAP, ABTS, DPPH, and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity assays are not accepted.
- in silico studies are not accepted as a main method.
- Disc diffusion experiments must be followed by in vitro or in vivo experiments.
- Specificity must be assessed to rule out general toxic effects, e.g. by including parallel cytotoxicity testing (cf. Cos et al. 2006)
- The mechanism of action must be assessed in sufficient detail (for crude extracts, the effects of contaminants should also be addressed).
- Experiments on the rat hind paw oedema model are not acceptable unless they are part of a larger pharmacological – phytochemical study.
- These will not be accepted unless followed by benchwork confirming affinity.
- A proposed mechanism of action is required.
in silico network pharmacology studies
-Network pharmacology studies must critically assess the evidence to evaluate the potential pharmacological effects of a preparation / herbal (medical) product.
- The identification of the compounds must be sound. This information may be derived from the existing literature or from benchwork. It is essential that the quantities of the compounds in the preparation or plant are stated and are high enough to be of pharmacological relevance.
- The bioavailability of the compounds must be assessed.
- Ubiquitous or very widely known compounds are highly unlikely to be ‘active’.
- Transcriptomic data need to be validated using RT-PCR, and proteomic data with Western blots.
Single dose studies:
- These are not accepted unless they focus on a species / compound not yet studied in detail, and can be justified on specific ethical grounds
c) Dose - ranges must be therapeutically relevant:
- Implausibly high doses will not be considered.
- Both positive and negative controls are essential.
- Multiple doses are strongly recommended, as single dose studies are rarely accepted - only in some specific complex models.
2. Composition Requirements:
Whether the material under investigation is a crude plant extract, a multi-herbal preparation, a single compound from a commercial source or extracted from plant, chemical and botanical composition must be explicitly stated.
- The concentrations of the dominating compounds must be listed, including dominant impurities if these compounds have been identified in previous studies. Stating the class of compounds present (such as “alkaloids”) is insufficient. We will usually ask for a HPLC or UPLC to establish the compounds present to ensure replicability, if this is not possible a credible alternative can be used.
- Referring to a previously used preparation in the literature is not acceptable, unless it has come from the same preparation or has the same batch number.
- For purchased compounds, purity (%) and the supplier name must be included.
- For extracted compounds, purity (%) and the method used to determine the purity must be stated.
- The structure of active compounds should be included as figures.
- Species names must be fully validated and should be described in their full taxonomy, using the Kew Medicinal plant names service.
- Samples must be deposited in a recognised herbarium, and accessible if necessary. To find out if your institution is indexed, please use the NYBG Steere Herbarium Search tool
- Voucher numbers from the herbarium must be included in the Methods.
- Coordinates of plant picking should also be included, or the commercial source of a preparation, which must include a batch number and details on the preparation’s composition.
3. Basic Experimental and Ethical Requirements:
a) The study must contribute substantially to the existing literature. How it does so must be explicitly stated. The most up-to-date surrounding literature should be discussed, including related compounds, to demonstrate the contribution of the study to the field.
b) Compliance with all international ethical standards is essential. The Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol are of particular relevance. This includes that research in the field should benefit the original users and consider their traditions.
c) The use of animals must be justified. If a material is well-characterised, and its properties well-known, performing another in vivo study is considered an unethical use of animals. A thorough knowledge of the literature is essential to avoid this mistake. Conversely, if a material is not well characterised, initial experiments in cell-based models are necessary to justify moving onto animal experiments.
d) The effects of traditional medicinal preparations must be testable in scientific terms. We acknowledge the importance of the understanding of medicinal preparations in their cultural context, and it may be that the treatment of symptoms as defined by traditional practices forms a basis for such investigations. However, pharmacological studies generally do not provide evidence for such uses, but rather for the established therapeutic targets of the model. Experimental outcomes should be linked to and described in these terms. For example, a series of in vitro tests will not demonstrate relevant evidence that will contribute to a physiological understanding of traditional therapeutic concepts, e.g. “dispelling wind” or “dampness” in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A justification must therefore be given for choosing a certain model to test a certain preparation.
4. Article-type Specific Requirements:
a) FIELD STUDIES
- Data must be substantial and original.
- The study must be discussed in the context of previous studies carried out in the region. How the study contributes to the development of the field must be made explicit.
- Must comply to the ConsEFS standards, including any updates.
- The objective of the review must be clearly defined.
- They must provide a specific, critical assessment of the literature. The scientific quality of the original articles must be critically assessed. This includes the experimental design, and reliability of the studies.
- The traditional use must be linked to scientific evidence.
- Future needs and priorities must be clearly defined.
c) SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS & META ANALYSES
- To assure the quality of the studies included, we ask for the inclusion of a summary table (templates available on the Ethnopharmacology About page).
- We ask that a chemical analysis is included, taken from one of the included studies. The chemical composition of the study material must be well defined. If the composition is poorly characterised, this must be highlighted.
- Quality control measures taken, as defined by a pharmacopoeia, must also be included.
- If the included studies do not use full botanical taxonomic names, this should be highlighted, as must any naming inconsistency between studies.
Keywords: Edible bird’s nest, chemical composition, sialic acid, nutraceuticals, functional studies
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.