Dr. John Arnason - February 5
Trees of life: ethnobotanical and phytochemical discovery of therapeutic natural products
Discovery and development of therapeutic substances from plant biodiversity is a proven scientific approach, but northern and southern plants of the Americas have been neglected until recently. In a CIHR Team funded project we examined northern plants used by the James Bay Cree First Nations for treatment of symptoms of type 2 diabetes. A quantitative ethnobotanical approach identified top ranked plants to study. Using bioassay guided isolation and metabolomics approaches, several novel triterpenes with metformin like activity were discovered in showy mountain ash, other novel gooyeroside derivatives from the pitcher plant were identified as hepatic glucose 6 phophate inhibitors and a new tamarack triterpene acid had rozaglitizone activity in adipogenesis. Our studies in Central America in collaboration with Costa Rican botanists and Maya healers has identified many natural products from neotropical rainforest plants especially ones used to treat symptoms related to mental health conditions. One example is the discovery of anxiety and cortisol lowering natural products in a previously unstudied family, Marcgraviaceae. These studies have found application in the development of integrated health strategies for first nations and evidence based products for veterinary medicine.