Chinese medicine plant may treat cancer

By Drum Digital
12 April 2016

A plant long used in Chinese medicine has a compound which could be used in the treatment of some diseases.

The Chinese skullcap - also known as Huang-Qin - is traditionally used as a remedy for fever, liver and lung problems.

Now, scientists have discovered a compound contained in the herbal plant has a special "pathway" to produce chemicals with the potential to fight liver disease and cancer.

Professor Cathie Martin, of the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, worked with a group of Chinese scientists and discovered the plant, Scutellaria baicalensi, synthesises chemicals, known as flavones.

Flavones are found widely in the plant world, giving some flora vivid blue flowers.

"Understanding the pathway should help us to produce these special flavones in large quantities, which will enable further research into their potential medicinal uses," Professor Martin told the BBC.

"We believe that this biosynthetic pathway has evolved relatively recently in Scutellaria roots, diverging from the classical pathway that produces flavones in leaves and flowers, specifically to produce chrysin and its derived flavones."

Professor Martin claims the discovery is a step towards being able to scale up production to make new drugs and is excited by the fact that the plants, which have been used as traditional remedies for thousands of years, may lead to effective modern medicines.

Chinese skullcap is native to China and is a member of the mint family. Its fever-reducing properties were first recognised back in the fourth century by Chinese physicians.

The research was first published in Science Advances. © Cover Media

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