News / Africa

    Drug Sought from African Tree

    São Tomé e Príncipe Sum Pontes and San Verónica healers collect the V. africana plant for their patients. In assays, the plant showed to be potent in reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and amyloid-beta peptides (typically associated with Alzheimer’s
    São Tomé e Príncipe Sum Pontes and San Verónica healers collect the V. africana plant for their patients. In assays, the plant showed to be potent in reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and amyloid-beta peptides (typically associated with Alzheimer’s

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua

    Scientists are looking at traditional African medicine for possible treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is analyzing the leaves and bark of a tree that grows on an island nation off the coast of West Africa.  

    Listen to De Capua report on medicinal African tree
    Listen to De Capua report on medicinal African treei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    On São Tomé and Príncipe, traditional healers have used the Voacanga africana tree for hundreds of years. It’s a small tree that produces yellow or white flowers that turn into berries with seeds. The seeds and bark have been used as a poison, aphrodisiac and a psychedelic. But traditional healers knew it somehow affected those believed to have brain disorders.

    Pamela Maher, senior staff scientist at the Salk Institute’s Cellular Neurobiology Lab, said, “We have developed over the years a variety of -- what are called – phenotypic assays that mimic different aspects of what goes wrong in the aging brain. And we have thought for a number of years that plants that have been used in traditional medicines might offer a new source of potential therapeutic compounds for neurodegenerative diseases.”

    These include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, as well as degeneration that occurs following a stroke. It’s estimated as many as five-million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, which causes a half-million deaths each year.

    “Right now there really are no good treatments for any neurodegenerative disease. And so we thought that by combining our phenotypic assays that can screen for potentially therapeutic compounds with new potential sources of therapeutic compounds might be a wonderful combination.” said Maher.

    Serendipity caused researchers to focus on the Voacanga africa tree. While visiting his family in Portugal, Maher’s associate, Antonio Currais, met Maria do Madureira, a researcher studying herbal medicine on São Tomé and Príncipe for many years. They developed tests to find medicinal properties in plants.

    Maher said, “We were focusing on plant extracts that were used in traditional medicine, either specifically for brain disorders or were known to have anti-inflammatory activity. And it’s now known a lot of neurological diseases – or almost all of them – involve some degree of inflammation.”

    The researchers found that the anti-inflammatory properties of the tree extracts were mostly due to one molecule called voacamine. No tests have been done on animals yet. But this is the molecule that potentially could lead to a synthetic drug for brain illnesses.

    “It was much more potent than we had expected something to be. So this showed that our approach for identifying these types of compounds works,” she said.

    Maher added that there are many potential sources of drugs in native plants around the world. Most of them have never been tested. She said since you cannot test every plant, the best approach is to “use the knowledge that’s been around for thousands of years to help pick and choose what to study.” 

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora