Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Further Study Necessary To Better Utilize Nature’s Medicine Cabinet

From the 15 December 2011 Medical News Today article

There are probably at least 500 medically useful chemicals awaiting discovery in plant species whose chemical constituents have not yet been evaluated for their potential to cure or treat disease, according to a new analysis by a New York Botanical Garden scientist who has more than 15 years of experience in collecting plants for natural-products discovery programs.

Currently, 135 drugs on the market are derived directly from plants; the analysis indicates that at least three times as many disease-fighting substances have yet to be found that could be developed into drugs or used as the basis for further drug research.

“Clearly, plant diversity has not been exhausted, and there is still great potential in the plant world,” said James S. Miller, Ph.D., Dean and Vice President for Science at the Botanical Garden.

Dr. Miller’s analysis, “The Discovery of Medicines from Plants: A Current Biological Perspective,” is published in the December issue of the peer-reviewed journal Economic Botany. …

[Web site of journal is here, for options on how to get the article for free or at low cost, click here]

Dr. Miller argues that one possible explanation for the low yield is the relatively crude way in which plant extracts were tested for their pharmaceutical potential. Plants may contain as many as 500 to 800 different chemical compounds, but the screening programs of the late 20th century used extracts made from a whole plant or at best extracts that contained many hundreds of compounds.

Under those circumstances, one compound may interfere with the action of another, or the amount of one compound may be too small to register in a mix of hundreds of chemicals.

To correct this problem, new technologies now allow researchers to separate complex mixtures of natural products into a “library” of relatively pure compounds that can be tested individually. A 2002 study demonstrated that testing such libraries dramatically improves discovery rates. …..

Read the entire news article

December 15, 2011 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , ,

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