What have daffodils got to do with Sir Terry Pratchett?

We like to explore seasonal chemistry at Asynt, and for those like me who aren’t “technical” there is always some sort of surprise to be found.

Daffodils and GalanthamineWith temperatures here in the UK gradually creeping up there are a few early signs of Spring such as crocus flowers appearing through the grass and daffodils bursting with riots of yellow petals!  It was the common daffodil that surprised me though when I started exploring and I would never have guessed that this simple bloom actually offers more than one clinical opportunity to treat complex ailments:

Galanthamine: This alkaloid is now apparantly marketed as a treatment for early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists believe patients with this condition have a shortage of neurotransmitter acetylcholine in their brain as it is destroyed by enzyme acetylcholine esterase. In the 50s, researchers discovered that galanthamine could block this enzyme, and eventually a treatment was manufactured.  Large-scale production was initially limited by a complicated and extremely expensive manufacture process, and pharma companies started looking for more appealing natural sources for extraction. This is where the daffodil comes in!  Here in the UK, planting daffodils is a long and well established horticultural expertise and actually our fairly chilly weather is well suited to the growth of daffodils for medical purposes as the stress of cold weather enhances alkaloid production.  There has been a huge outpouring of sorrow around the world in the last week at the loss of amazing English science fiction writer, Sir Terry Pratchett, to Alzheimer’s Disease.  I wonder how many new treatments are being worked on right now that could help those who are suffering the disease or will come to suffer it in the future.

Lycorine, pretazettine and narciclasine: This group of alkaloids have shown remarkable potential as anticancer treatments and researchers believe they can have a new “daffodil-based” drug available in the market within the next decade. For example, several studies have identified that these alkaloids has strong cytotoxic and anticancer properties in various cancer models, including brain, skin and ovarian cancer.

Interestingly, lycorine in particular seems to have a wide range of biological effects in addition to its anticancerous properties. Studies showed potential to treat malaria, nausea as well as a variety of viral conditions, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), severe acute respiratory syndrome associated coronavirus (SARS), human enterovirus 71 (EV71), measles, poliovirus and herpes. Researchers believe lycorine interferes with the virus’ protein synthesis, thus blocking its dissemination.

I’ll never look down on the actually rather un-common daffodil again! It also makes me so curious about the wonders that you, our friends and customers, deal with on a daily basis and what contribution systems such as our DrySyn range may make to the development of treatments, vaccinations and cures throughout the world!



Credit: information sourced from www.thechemicalblog.co.uk by Alex Reis (@AReis_Science)