Navigation Links
Insect warning colors aid cancer and tropical disease drug discovery
Date:7/8/2008

Brightly colored beetles or butterfly larvae nibbling on a plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer cell lines and tropical parasitic diseases, according to researchers at Smithsonian's Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Such clues could speed drug discovery and provide insight into the ecological relationships between tropical-forest plants and insects that feed on them. The report is published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

"These findings are incredibly exciting and important," said Todd Capson, STRI research chemist, who directed the project. "The results of this study could have direct and positive impacts on the future of medical treatment for many diseases around the world."

For this research scientists used plants already known to have anti-cancer compounds; those proven to be active against certain disease-carrying parasites; and plants without such activity. The study showed that beetles and butterfly larvae with bright warning coloration were significantly more common on plants that contained compounds active against certain diseases, such as breast cancer and malaria. There was no significant difference in the number of plain-colored insects between plants with and without activity, according to the study by the Smithsonian's Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program.

"We put two and two together," said researcher Julie Helson. "We knew that brightly colored insects advertise to their predators that they taste bad and that some get their toxins from their host plants. But because other insects cheat by mimicking the toxic ones, we weren't sure if insect color was really going to work to identify plants containing toxinsit did!" Helson was a student at McGill University when she conducted this research in 2005.

The Smithsonian's PICBG program first demonstrated that theories about chemical defense in rainforest plantssuch as the idea that young leaves tend to be richer in defense chemicalscan significantly improve the efficiency and lower the cost of drug discovery, when compared with a random screening approach.

Although the idea that brightly colored insects could facilitate the search for medicinally active plants has been discussed for decades, the concept had never been rigorously tested. This new work at the Smithsonian provides another example of how ecology can contribute to the discovery of novel medicines. The study suggests that a quick screen for insects with warning coloration on tropical plants may increase the efficiency of the search for compounds active against cancer and tropical parasitic disease by four-fold. "It's very gratifying to see that it works in the field." said Capson. "I am hopeful that other investigators will follow our lead and test our theory that insects can lead us to plants with disease-fighting properties."

This work also demonstrates that protecting tropical forestsnot just the insects and plants, but at every levelhas the potential to provide immeasurable benefits to human health.


'/>"/>

Contact: Beth King
kingb@si.edu
703-487-3770, ext. 8216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Study shows single insecticide application can kill 3 cockroach generations
2. Insect release proposed to control exotic strawberry guava
3. Oregano oil works as well as synthetic insecticides to tackle common beetle pest
4. Insects use plant like a telephone
5. Insects evolved radically different strategy to smell
6. Insects take a bigger bite out of plants in a higher CO2 world
7. Insecticide combo delivers knockout punch
8. Birds, bats and insects hold secrets for aerospace engineers
9. Ants and avalanches: Insects on coffee plants follow widespread natural tendency
10. Insects giant leap reconstructed by founder of sociobiology
11. Insect gut detects unhealthy meal
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Insect warning colors aid cancer and tropical disease drug discovery
(Date:3/9/2016)... HAMBURG, Germany , March 9, 2016 ... African country,s government identified that more than 23,000 public ... name or had been receiving their salary unlawfully.    ... West African country,s government identified that more than 23,000 ... recorded name or had been receiving their salary unlawfully. ...
(Date:3/3/2016)... 2016  2016FLEX, organized by FlexTech, a SEMI ... in flexible, hybrid and printed electronics. More than ... have gathered for short courses, technical session, exhibits, ... The Flex Conference celebrates its 15 th ... organizations, and universities contributing to the adoption of ...
(Date:3/1/2016)... , March 1, 2016 ... the addition of the  "Global Biometric ...  report to their offering. --> ... addition of the  "Global Biometric Access ... to their offering. --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... , ... Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (SSI) will be showcasing a ... and Expo. Shimadzu’s high-performance instruments enable laboratories to test cannabis products for potency, ... by booth 1021 to learn how Shimadzu’s instruments can help improve QA/QC testing, ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... 27, 2016 , ... The Board of Directors of Biohaven ... Tilton as Chief Commercial Officer.  Mr. Tilton joined Biohaven from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ... responsible for the commercialization of multiple orphan drug indications. Mr. Tilton has ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... 27, 2016 , ... Global Stem Cells Group and the University ... other research and development initiatives for potential stem cell protocol management for 2016 – ... Group executives began meeting to establish a working agenda and foster initiatives to promote ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... The European Patent Office (EPO) today announced ... finalists for the European Inventor Award 2016 in the category "Non-European countries." The winners ... a ceremony in Lisbon on June 9th. , The human capacity to walk with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: