Thursday, July 13, 2006

Teaching an old drug new tricks

Scientist at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, recently published in the National Academy of Science, their research on plant extracts. The research scientist working with plant extracts, found a group of plant extracts that seem to protect rat's brains from damage after a stroke. If this is also true in humans then, after a stroke, administering these drugs will allow the stroke to be limited and have a better outcome.

What is even more interesting is that some of the plant extracts included cardiac glycosides, a drug that we are all very familiar with. These plant extracts seem to confer some neuro-protection against cerebral ischemia. Although cardiac glycosides were among the extracts, the plant extract, neriifolin, seems to confer the best protection.

Cardiac glycosides have been in use for a long time, initially in the treatment of "dropsy " (swellings from heart failure), and now in the management of atrial fibrillation. The advantage with finding new uses for old drugs would be the fact that we know a lot about the drug including clinical doses, it's effects and side-effects.

Perhaps the researchers should do a retrospective analysis of all the records of patients who were given digitalis, and who had a stroke, to see if these patients had a better outcome after a stoke. This would be relatively easy to do and also would not cost millions, as would a clinical trial. Of course the other interesting point would be that there seems to be alot of active research in plants and herbs, in the management of disease states. Perhaps our forefathers knew about these herbs and had used them in their traditional remedy for illnesses, through the ages. There may be something to herbal medicine after all, or is there?

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