The knowledge acquired by mankind through ages has accumulated and forms a wonderful source of information including medicinal properties of various plants which can be used to treat many diseases for which modern medicine is under efficient or inefficient. Traditional or local medicinal practice is such a source of information which when scientifically validated can give rise to new drug candidates. Our lab is focusing on the development of new drug candidates from medicinal plants used in traditional medicine, for various hepatic ailments, Carcinomas and Gastric disorders.
Among the different kinds of hepatitis, the one which is caused by Hepatitis B virus is most common in developing countries like India. Even though a vaccine is available for more than two decades it is not effective for already infected individuals and requires frequent booster doses. In this context development of new drug candidates to combat with HBV is of immense value. The HBV infection is highly specific to that of Human hepatocytes and hence development of in vivo models for anti HBV drug discovery is not that easy. Alternatively, Wistar Rats when treated with the chemical D-Galactosamine simulates the viral hepatitis in pathophysiology. We are using different fractions from the plant species viz Phyllanthus, Glycosmis and ferns like Lygodium that were used in traditional medicine against hepatic disorders for new drug discovery using in
vivo animal models. The active fractions were further tested on Hepatic cells having integrated HBV genome and that secretes live virion in to the medium. Construction of an in vitro screening system by fluorescent tagging of the viral proteins and followed by the monitoring of the viral dynamics in the cells for the rapid identification of new drugs is underway.
The chronic hepatitis when untreated leads to cirrhosis and finally to Hepato cellular carcinoma (HCC). Our group is exploring different ferns viz Cheilanthes, Diplazium for new candidate drugs that can be used against HCC. Similarly, severe insult of liver with environmental toxins and ethyl alcohol will lead to severe hepatic fibrosis. The potency of herbal medicines in preventing hepatic fibrosis is also under investigation in our lab.
The changing food habits and the thrust of the fast food culture have imposed another major health problem nowadays i.e. gastric ulcer or gastritis. It is caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori whose infection can be triggered by changes in food habits. The local medicinal practitioners uses medicinal plants like Cardiospermum to prevent the gastritis. Studies in our lab has established the anti ulcer activity of this plant and further studies to develop a phytomedicine from it is underway.