Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily

Understanding natural compounds when antibiotics no longer work — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts

Date:November 12, 2014
Source:ETH Zürich
Summary:Medicine is drifting towards a major problem. An increasing number of bacteria is no longer sensitive to known antibiotics. Doctors urgently need to find new ways of fighting these multi-resistant pathogens. To address the problem, pharmaceutical research is turning back to the source of most of our drugs: nature.

Although hundreds of thousands of known active agents are found in nature, exactly how most of them work is unclear. A team of researchers from ETH Zurich has now developed a computer-based method to predict the mechanism of action of these natural substances. The scientists hope this method will help them to generate new ideas for drug development. “Natural active agents are usually very large molecules that often can be synthesized only through very laborious processes,” says Gisbert Schneider, a professor of computer-aided drug design at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich. An understanding of the exact mechanism of action of a natural substance enables the design of smaller, less complex molecules that are easier to synthesize. Once a substance is chemically synthesized, it can be optimized for medical applications.

In order to understand the mechanism of action, researchers are studying which parts of a pathogen interact with the natural substance to inhibit its growth for example. In the past, this involved highly complex laboratory tests through which scientists usually identified only the strongest effect of a substance. However, this interaction alone is often unable to explain the entire effect of a natural substance. “Minor interactions with other target structures can contribute to the overall effect as well,” explains Schneider.

“By using the computer to break down the molecules, which can be quite large, into separate building blocks, we discover which parts might be essential for the mechanism of action,” says Schneider. Thus, it might be possible to design less complex molecules that chemists could synthesize instead of the laborious process of isolating them from the natural source.

Analysis of 210,000 natural substances

Using the computer-based method, the researchers led by Gisbert Schneider were able to predict a variety of potential target structures for 210,000 known natural substances.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple, Concise Messages About The Benefits Of Phytonutrients Would Help Consumers

From the 12 April 2012 article at Medical News Today

An expert panel at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 12 meeting urged the food industry to find simple yet powerful language to tell consumers about the many benefits of a diet rich in phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are plant-based components that are thought to promote health, such as beta carotene and lycopene. They are typically found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas.

During the discussion, the panelists noted that phytonutrients [chemicals from plants] are very complex, and care must be taken when promoting their benefits to avoid the image of a “magic bullet.” At the same time, consumers can grow weary of constantly changing nutritional recommendations, causing them to feel overwhelmed and possibly decide to forgo healthy eating altogether. …

…Diekman suggested promoting “strongly flavored, darkly colored” foods, and taking care to highlight the importance of phytonutrients as part of the whole food. Consumers should be encouraged to choose healthy plant-based foods because of how all the ingredients combine to produce health benefits.
Key Nutrient: Allicin
Sources: Garlic, Onions
Benefits: Heart health; Cancer prevention, helps prevent increased cholesterol
Key Nutrient: Limonin
Sources: Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes, Oranges
Benefits: Cancer prevention, helps prevent increased cholesterol, lung health
Key Nutrient: Lutein
Sources: Broccoli, Spinach, Kiwifruit, Lettuce
Benefits: Eye health…

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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