Monday, December 11

Biodiversity in Health Care: Few Examples

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Biodiversity is an umbrella term for “the variety of genes, species, and ecosystems that constitute life on earth”. Biodiversity is an asset with immediate and future benefit for the quality of life and obviously an asset for sustainable development, the key objective of present day human society.

Fitter in 1989 in a review in species newsletter of SSC recorded that, “Human society depends on genetic resources for almost all the food supply, half of its medicines, much of it’s clothing and … fuel and building material and as …, an important part of its mental and spiritual welfare”. Anthropogenic biodiversity loss can be local, national, regional, or global and are due to several reasons. Biodiversity loss negatively affects the quality of our life and constitutes a serious threat to our survival.

Biodiversity is also closely associated with health care. Research on numerous species has brought medicine into modern era. Dart-poison frog is medically important. They produce a range of biologically active alkaloids, which are used in studying membrane function and neurophysiological research. Study of frog toxin is expected to reveal therapeutic agents for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.

Ramkrisshnappa in 2002 reported in a FAO publication that in India around 25,000 effective plant based formulations are used in folk medicine and over 1.5 million practitioners of folk medicinal system use medicinal plants in preventive, promotional, and curative purposes. Over 7800 medicinal drug manufacturing units in India consume about 2000 tones of herbs annually.

According to the WHO, about 88% of the world’s population relies mainly on traditional medicine.At least 119 compounds derived from 90 plant species can be considered as important, with 77 percent of these being derived from plants used in traditional medicine.

In industrialized nations, some 50 percent of all prescribed drugs are derived or synthesized from animals, marine organisms, plants, and microorganisms.

Vinblastine and vincristine are derivatives of periwinkle plant. This has proven effective in the treatment of Hodgkin’s disease, breast cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and other diseases. Vincristine has achieved 90 percent success rate in treatment of childhood leukemia.

The discovery of taxol from American yew tree has heightened the interest in plant-based anticancer drug.

Epothilones first isolated from Myxobacteria are proved to be more potent than taxol.

Camptothecin originally isolated from a Chinese tree are being developed as anticancer agent.

Similarly, colchicines the active principle of Gloriosa superba has long been used for the treatment of arthritis.

The article is based on the information of a research article, “Biodiversity and natural product drug discovery” Published in the Journal, Pure & Appl.Chem (Vol. 70, No 11, pp.2065-2072

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