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Plant Medicine Roundup

July 20, 2007

Lifesaving drugs are being developed from unexpected sources.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Lifesaving drugs from plants and mushrooms. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A compound found in the bark of a South American tree shows promise as a potent anti-cancer drug. Now researchers at the University of Texas have found out how the compound works. Some cancer cells produce a chemical that protects them from radiation and chemotherapy, making them extremely difficult to treat. The tree bark compound knocks out the cancer cells’ protection, leaving them vulnerable to treatment. The finding will help researchers trying to turn the promising compound into an effective new drug.

Researchers at Penn State are turning mushrooms into drug factories. They bio-engineer the mushrooms to produce therapeautically important proteins, targeted to treat various diseases. Mushrooms have a very fast growth cycle, allowing scientists to make large amounts of the compounds more quickly than they could using other methods. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.