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Traditional Chinese medicine - chemistry and application

Posted on 24. April, 2013.

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Amongst the many aspects of modern Chinese chemistry described in the Journal of Chemical Research during 2012, are phytochemical investigations into the constituents of traditional Chinese medicines derived from plants and fungi. Such studies have afforded new medicines to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, malaria and cancer.

For many years Traditional Chinese Medicines derived from plants and fungi have been the subject of phytochemical investigations which have afforded new medicines. For example the alkaloid huperazine A which was obtained from the club moss Huperzia serrata, has been used for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease whilst the sesquiterpenoid artemisinin (qinghaosu) from Artemisia annua has been used in the treatment of malaria. Over 65% of the papers published in the last year by the Journal of Chemical Research came from China.  Amongst the many aspects of modern Chinese chemistry that they describe, are investigations into the constituents of Traditional Chinese Medicines.

Further investigations of the constituents of Huperzia serrata that have recently been reported [1] in the Journal of Chemical Research, have revealed the presence of some more interesting Lycopodium alkaloids that are similar to huperazine whilst some tremulane sesquiterpenoids were isolated [2] from Ceriporia lacerate, an endophytic fungus which was growing in H.serrata.  In another study the structures have been elucidated [3] of a number of steroidal pregnane glycosides which were obtained in further work on the roots of Cynachum otophyllum, a plant which has been used to treat epilepsy.  Isodon species of herbs are widely used in Traditiional Chinese Medicines and over 600 diterpenes have been isolated from these plants.  Many of these diterpenes have cytotoxic properties and structure:activity relationships have begun to emerge.  Recent papers in the Journal of Chemical Research have reported novel cytotoxic diterpenes of both the abietane and ent-kaurene series from I.lophanthoides [4] and I.serra [5].

In order to investigate the structure:biological activity relationships of the constituents of Traditional Chinese Medicines, a number of partial syntheses have been described utilising readily available natural products as starting materials.  Among recent papers in the Journal of Chemical Research was a description [6] of the partial synthesis of 23-hydroxybetulonic acid and 23-hydroxybetulinic acid both of which have strong cytotoxic activity.  Aspects of the chemistry of the tumour inhibitory diterpenoid andrographolide [7] and sinomenine [8] have been described in this context.  The transformation of readily available natural products into analogues of the components of Traditional Chinese Medicines has revealed some interesting chemistry of these compounds.

[1]  W-G. Shan, F-Y.Ren, Y-M.Ying,  C-P. Tong and Z-J.Zhan,  J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 15.
[2]  W-G.Shan, D-E.Liang, Y-M.Ying and Z-J.Zhan, J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 365.
[3]  W-G.Shan, X.Liu, L-F.Ma and Z-J.Zhan, J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 38.
[4]  L.Yang, S.Liu, H.Wang and Y.Suo, J.Chem.Res., 2013, 37, 28.
[5]  F.L.Yan, R-J.Xie, Y-Y. Yin and Q.Zhang,  J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 523.
[6]  F.Sun, P.Zhu, H.Yao, X.Wu and J.Xu, J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 254.
[7]  Y.Yang, T.Lian, Q.Zhang, J-T.Wang, L.Xu, X.M.Zhang J-G.Geng and L.J.Wang, J.Chem.Res., 2012, 36, 83.
[8]  X.Zheng, D.Luo, H.Gao, W.Jiang and A.Ding, J.Chem.Res., 2012,36, 315.

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