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Drugmakers Abandon Nature's Pharmacy

From penicillin to Taxol, most new drugs have had their roots in natural products, but scientists worry that the approach is in decline

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Parasitic Palliative?

The human whipworm ( Trichuris trichiura ) afflicts some 500 million people worldwide with diarrhea, anemia and even rectal prolapse, but David Pritchard of the University of Nottingham in England says we should be taking a closer look at it for its ability to moderate inflammatory bowel disease.....[ More ]

Easter Surprise

Discovered in soil fungus on Easter Island in the Pacific, rapamycin is an immunosuppressant long used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, but it is now finding applications in a wide variety of other maladies.....[ More ]

Malarial Medicine Machine

The antimalaria drug Artemisinin comes from the Chinese wormwood tree, but until recently it was far too expensive for use in fighting malaria in Africa and other developing countries. Then, synthetic biologist Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, coaxed a yeast to synthesize it.....[ More ]

Taxing Taxol

In 1977 researchers proved that an extract from the Pacific yew tree, paclitaxel ( Taxol ), had the potential to fight tumors , and conservationists worried it would require the harvesting of 360,000 trees every year.....[ More ]

Stinging Pain

Cone snails have one of the most potent venoms known, which they use to paralyze small fish by blocking the movement of calcium ions in their prey's nerve cells, thereby preventing the neurons from functioning normally.....[ More ]

Moldy Medicine

Penicillin , the world's first antibiotic, was described in 1928 when Alexander Fleming at Saint Mary's Hospital in London noticed a strange fungus was killing off his bacterial colonies. Ten years later, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain at the University of Oxford began working on a way to isolate the compound from the penicillium fungus and produce enough of it to be used on wounded soldiers during World War II.....[ More ]

Poppy Plants

In the 19th century, Friedrich Sertümer, a pharmacist's apprentice, isolated morphine from the latex resin of the opium poppy ( Papaver somniferum ). This achievement marked the first time a pure pharmaceutical compound had been isolated from a plant and set off the era of modern medicine.....[ More ]

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