Scientists identify strong cancer killer in Central Highlands’ forest

VietNamNet Bridge - An active element in the dinh tung (Cephalotaxaceae) plant has been found to inhibit the development of many kinds of diseases, including lung, liver, epithelium and breast cancer.


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Scientists identify strong cancer killer in dinh tung


Scientists of the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, when researching 15 species of coniferous trees in the Central Highlands, discovered that the trees are biologically active with cells harmful to humans.

The research team worked on dinh tung (Cephalotaxaceae), thong la det (Pinus krempfii), kim giao nui dat (Nageia wallichiana) and du sam nui dat (Keteleeria evelyniana) to subdivide and look for valuable compounds for medicine. 

Of 33 compounds in the four species, galangnin and isolariciresinol were found for the first time in thong la det and a new substance – norisoharringtonine – in dinh tung’s bark and leaves.

The newly discovered substance in dinh tung were extracted into active ingredients to affect cancer cells cultured in laboratory. The experiments showed that cancer cells (KB), liver cancer (Hep-G2), lung cancer (LU) and breast tissue were severely inhibited.

According to Dinh Thi Phong, a member of the research team, many plant species in nature are resistant to certain types of cancer, but the activity is not strong and can be weakened by the action on the cell. 

Meanwhile, norisoharringtonine is active against many cancers and its effects do not weaken by the action on the cell.

Of 33 compounds in the four species, galangnin and isolariciresinol were found for the first time in thong la det and a new substance – norisoharringtonine – in dinh tung’s bark and leaves.

This is an important discovery. However, it will take much more time to develop the substance into medicine for human treatment. After the findings in laboratory, the new active element will still needs to go through experiments with mice and clinical experiments in humans.

Phong said one of the big problems researchers face is the lack of input materials. The new active element can be useful only when it is extracted from adult trees 5-10 years old. 

Meanwhile, dinh tung is in danger of extinction in Vietnam. There are only 34 dinh tung trees in the entire province of Lam Dong, including five adult trees.

The Central Highlands’ forest has a thick mulch layer, which makes it difficult for dinh tung germinated seeds to contact the land layer. 

Therefore, there is little opportunity for this species to regenerate naturally. The researchers have asked local authorities to think of solutions to develop dinh tung to protect the valuable genetic source.

In Vietnam, dinh tung can be found in Ha Tay (Ba Vi), Thanh Hoa (Lung Van), Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue and Kon Tum.

In related news, local newspapers in June reported that Nguyen Thi Hoai from Hue Medical & Pharmaceutical University found two compounds in bu de tia (Uvaria grandiflora Roxb. ex Hornem), grown in Quang Tri’s forests which can be used to treat cancer.


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Mai Nam

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