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Sweetgum tree could help lessen shortage of bird flu drug

has been considered the most abundant plant source, until now.

"Our work gives the hearty sweetgum tree another purpose, one that may help to alleviate the worldwide shortage of shikimic acid," says study leader Thomas Poon, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry from the W.M. Keck Science Center at The Claremont Colleges in Claremont, Calif. "They have lots of potential for fighting bird flu."

The sweetgum tree grows widely throughout the United States and other parts of the world. In this country, it is particularly common in the South, including the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, but also can be found as far west as Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma and northward in parts of Illinois.

Although shikimic acid is found in the leaves and bark of the tree, it is most abundant in the fruit, Poon says. In the mature tree, the fruit emerges as a green seedpod that later dries into a brown, spiny husk, which releases an abundance of tiny, grain-like seeds. To optimize shikimic acid extraction, the gumballs need to be harvested when they are still green and before the seeds have been dispersed, Poon says. Each tree can hold hundreds, if not thousands, of seedpods.


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Source:American Chemical Society


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