News archive 2007
New drugs potential of Chinese herbs23 Jan 2007, PR 08/07
Herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine contain a host of chemicals that could be used to develop new drugs for a range of debilitating diseases, researchers at King's College London have shown.
In the first large-scale screening of its kind, Dr David Barlow and his colleagues Dr Peter Hylands and Tom Ehrman in the Pharmacy Department at King's have used cutting-edge computing techniques to look for potential new drugs in Chinese herbal constituents.
The team set up a database of over 8,000 chemicals from the 240 most common Chinese herbs and then searched to identify substances with the potential for treating a range of human diseases. The computer search, carried out by research student Tom Ehrman, revealed that over 62 per cent of the herbs contained 'candidate' drug compounds with the potential for use in treating a single disease. Over 50 per cent could be used to treat two or more diseases.
Among the many new treatment possibilities identified, ginseng and rhubarb may be used to treat inflammation, while ginkgo and mint offer potential in the management of diabetes. Pomegranate and clove could be useful in treating HIV because they contain a wide range of chemical classes, including lignans, carotenoids and phenolics, which could interfere with the way the virus invades and replicates within cells.
'Large-scale computer searches like this provide us with a quick and easy way to discover new drugs,' said Dr David Barlow, Head of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. 'With the problems we're now having with MRSA and various other superbugs, any new leads we find will be invaluable.'
Tom Ehrman added, 'What this work shows is that the relatively new science of molecular informatics may have much to offer in furthering our understanding of how herbs work, and in developing new, and perhaps safer, medicines based on nature's own resources.'
The research is published online in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 5,600 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine, nursing and the sciences, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to four Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £100 million, and has an annual turnover of more than £363 million.
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