In the closets of botanists in ancient China, Artemisia annua, an aromatic herbal plant native to Asia, occupied a privileged place due to its medicinal properties. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that science began to study this plant with more than ten active ingredients. A task that continues to this day. Researchers in Valerie Sponsel’s UTSA biology lab are studying the plant to understand the bioactive properties of one of these compounds, arteannuin B, in cancer cells and Covid.
“About 50% of prescription medications are based on natural products. They are produced by plants, fungi or bacteria. Half of these drugs come from plants. “That’s amazing when you think about all the drugs in the world,” Sponsel said. “Different plants produce different medicinal substances. When it comes to cancer, there are several types of compounds that have always existed but have only been discovered in the last half century. “There will never be a drug that treats all types of cancer, so research continues.”
Artemisia annua or Sweet Annie has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. The plant produces artemisinin, which contains an endoperoxide used to treat malaria. Its leaf extracts have been used to treat a variety of other diseases, including cancer and COVID-19.
Coffee with artemisia infusion
Sweet Annie’s infused coffee is the focus of a recent cancer clinical trial, while its tea-infused plant extract has been used in Africa to potentially combat COVID.
However, until recently it was not clear to researchers how exactly the plant’s active ingredients work. Sponsel, Yoshimoto and Lin were the first to demonstrate the mechanism of one of these molecules through their interdisciplinary work in biochemistry, chemistry and biology.
“We are in the early stages of studying the mechanism of action of Sweet Annie’s medicinal compounds to determine how best to administer them and target the therapy,” said Lin, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and the department in neuroscience at UTSA. Developmental and regenerative biology. “We can be more specific. We can reduce the concentration to attack tumors directly. “We are currently looking at how we can encapsulate the compound in different concentrations that specifically target the areas that need treatment,” Lin concludes.