Navigation Links
From carnivorous plants to the medicine cabinet?

In the tropics, carnivorous plants trap unsuspecting prey in a cavity filled with liquid known as a "pitcher."

The moment insects like flies, ants and beetles fall into a pitcher, the plant's enzymes are activated and begin dissolving their new meal, obtaining nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen which are difficult to extract from certain soils. Carnivorous plants also possess a highly developed set of compounds and secondary metabolites to aid in their survival.

These compounds could serve as a new class of anti-fungal drugs for use in human medicine, says Prof. Aviah Zilberstein of Tel Aviv University's Department of Plant Sciences. In a study conducted together with Dr. Haviva Eilenberg from her lab, Prof. Esther Segal from Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Shmuel Carmeli from the School of Chemistry, the unusual components from the plants' pitchers were found effective as anti-fungal drugs against human fungal infections widespread in hospitals. The primary results are encouraging.

"To avoid sharing precious food resources with other micro-organisms such as fungi, the carnivorous plant has developed a host of agents that act as natural anti-fungal agents," says Prof. Zilberstein. "In the natural habitat of the tropics, competition for food is fierce, and the hot, moist environment is perfect for fungi, which would also love to eat the plant's insect meal."

Highly resistant and 100% organic

After initial tests of the plant proteins and enzymes that dissolve the chitin of fungi, Prof. Zilberstein assumes that, in the right clinical conditions, the pitcher secondary metabolites can be developed to effective anti-fungal drugs, that may avoid the evolution of new resistant infective strains.

The collaborating team has just published a paper exploring that potential in the Journal of Experimental Biology, based on the biology of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes khasiana. This plant species is originally found in India but is also being reared in Tel Aviv University greenhouses.

Currently there is a need for additional broadly effective anti-fungal drugs. Even mildly severe forms of athlete's foot or other skin fungal infections lack effective treatments. The problem becomes more dire at hospitals, where thousands of Americans die each year from secondary fungal infections they acquire during their stay as patients.

Forging a "wild" pathway in drug discovery

The collaborating team has determined plant secondary metabolites that function as anti-fungal agents. "The pitcher of the carnivorous plant produces these compounds in a gland," says Prof. Zilberstein. Until now, no one has published or discussed the anti-fungal metabolites found in the trap liquid of this plant, she says.

"We're hoping that these metabolites are working together to keep fungus at bay. Our aim now is to get funding for pre-clinical tests of these compounds in an animal model, so we can investigate their effectiveness against the two very acute fungal pathogens found in hospitals worldwide," she says.

The idea that liquid from a plant pitcher could stave off infection has been documented in the folk literature of India, where people drink carnivorous plant pitcher juice as a general elixir. "There is a lot of room for developing compounds from nature into new drugs," says Prof. Zilberstein. "The one we are working on is not toxic to humans. Now we hope to show how this very natural product can be further developed as a means to overcome some basic problems in hospitals all over the world."


Contact: George Hunka
American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related biology news :

1. Emory paleontologist reports discovery of carnivorous dinosaur tracks in Australia
2. Carnivorous plants use pitchers of slimy saliva to catch their prey
3. Scientists think killer petunias should join the ranks of carnivorous plants
4. Layered approach may yield stronger, more successful bone implants
5. Clever plants chat over their own network
6. Plants can be used to study how and why people respond differently to drugs
7. Book on weeds and invasive plants discusses how to manage them using ecological approaches
8. A greenhouse in order to study the impact of climate change on plants
9. Agent that triggers immune response in plants is uncovered
10. Scientists ramp up ability of poplar plants to disarm toxic pollutants
11. A new baseline of invasive plants in Isabela
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/26/2015)... PALO ALTO, Calif. and LAS ... – Nok Nok Labs , an innovator in ... FIDO Alliance , today announced the launch of its ... the first unified platform enabling organizations to use standards-based ... authentication. The Nok Nok S3 Authentication Suite is ideal ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... Oct. 23, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... "Global Voice Recognition Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to ... --> The global voice recognition biometrics market to ... --> --> The ... prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs ...
(Date:10/22/2015)...  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading supplier of ... quarter ended September 30, 2015.  --> ... $4.0 million, a decrease of 33% compared to $6.0 million in ... of 2015 was $2.2 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, which ... same period a year ago.  --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... that the remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 ... (the "Series B Warrants") subject to the previously ... November 23, 2015, which will result in the ... effect to the issuance of such shares, there ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In harsh ... Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where leaking process ... series of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate extreme process ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would like to ... Deloitte's 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies in North ... II medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as much as ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... development and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, today announced that ... scheduled to present at the 2015 Piper Jaffray Healthcare ... at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel in ... . --> . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: