The use of natural products for medicinal purposes, especially plants, is an ancient practice that forms part of traditional medicine. However, its healing power in some cases is so effective that many medicines have been developed on the basis of derivatives of these plants. This was the case with morphine and codeine, which have analgesic effects, and were derived from opium and quinine / artemisinin, which originate from the cinchona tree and are used, among other things, to prevent or treat malaria. This interest in natural product derivatives and their biomedical applications became the focus of research in which Carolina Muñoz, associate professor, and Juan Carlos Cruz worked for three years.
During this time, researchers have been able to study the therapeutic uses of sugarcane derivatives that are used to make panels, in particular, their regenerating and antioxidant properties. They complemented it with research on the microbial and regenerative effects that essential oils like lavender, extracted from a plant known as lavandula angustifolia, may have.
In the context of the pandemic, this work allowed them, together with ALSEC company, to present themselves to the call of the Ministry of Science “Strategies for the prevention of infection with SARS-COV-2 and the treatment of Covid-19”, with the aim of evaluating molecules derived from essential oils with which the company worked, which potentially can be used as dietary supplements that can strengthen the immune system against infections, especially SARS-COV-2.
“The first thing we did was to compute whether the compounds present in the extracts at high concentrations were capable of inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 in any way. We found that it was indeed eugenol, which is obtained mainly from cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg; Eucalyptus oil (1,8-cineole) and cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis sativa plant, can prevent the virus from entering human cells, ”Cruz said.
To scale up this initiative, the professors reworded the study to take part in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) teleconference PA-20-178 in conjunction with the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials and the University of South Australia. In this new phase, the goal will be to assess the antiviral capacity of a drug formulated with panel-derived products at a preclinical level.
To do this, they will experiment with viruses that equipment can handle at a medium biosafety level, also called “BSL-2”, which applies to educational, diagnostic and clinical laboratories where they work with agents of moderate risk. … In the long term, the team hopes to find funding to create a workspace that will allow them to reach the maximum level of biosafety, where they can directly “infect” their SARS-CoV-2 cell lines and test the formulations. “Having demonstrated in vitro antiviral potential, our goal is to continue in vivo research to attract interest from the outside sector and thus bring the development to clinical scale and ultimately gain approval for commercialization, ”added Professor Muñoz.