The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NIH was established in 1998 for just this kind of study. One of the 27 Institutes making up NIH, the Center funds scientific research and technologies that examine herbal remedies, such as dandelion, green tea, valerian, and horse chestnut, and practices like acupuncture, Tai Chi, and Reiki that fall outside conventional medicines.
The ASU duo will examine the mechanisms that allow two clays mined in France to heal Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacterial disease found primarily in central and western Africa. Buruli ulcer has been declared to be "an emerging public health threat" by the World Health Organization (WHO). Related to leprosy and tuberculosis, the Mycobacterium ulcerans produces a toxin, lesions, and destroys the fatty tissues under the skin.
"The toxin is immunosuppressant; the patients feel no pain and the body mounts no response to infection. It leads to disfigurement, isolation, not unlike that seen in leprosy," Haydel explains. "Traditional antibiotics can only make a difference at the very earliest stages of the disease, so treatments have, in the past, been largely confined to amputations or surgical excision of the infected sites."
This means if the clays are antibacterial in nature and the locus for that activity can be isolated, they may represent a new form of treatment, one that goes beyond the capacity of existing antibiotics. "And they could be produced and distributed cheaply," Williams notes.
Humanitarians answer Internet challenge
So how did a clay mineralogist whose background is in low temperature geochemistry become involved with a health care project centered in the Ivory Coast? The scientific equivalent of an online dating or matchmaking service: "I answered a posting on the Clay Mineral Society's list serve placed by Thierry Brunet de Courssou. He was asking to have someone take high resoluti
Source:Arizona State University