The national and foreign scholars on Tuesday highlighted the importance of natural products, and said that they had extensively been used for the treatment of various health disorders since ancient times.

They said that the consumption of Momordica charantia (MC), which is also known as bitter melon, or Karela vegetable, can reduce hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) in both animal models and humans.

They expressed serious concerns over the fatality of some diseases like breast cancer and tuberculosis (TB) that killed an estimated 1.5 million people in 2020.

They were delivering their plenary lectures in the scientific session held on the second day of the “15th International Symposium on Natural Product Chemistry (ISNPC-15)” which is being held at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi. As many as 60 scholars from more than 20 countries are participating in the conference, while 400 scholars are only from Pakistan.

In his plenary lecture, Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Director of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, and COMSTECH Coordinator General, said that natural products had extensively been used for the treatment of various health disorders since ancient times.

They are considered as the most significant sources of therapeutically important chemical constituents with immense structural diversity, he said, adding that at present several plant-derived medicines have been developed as novel anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antihypertensive agents.

He said, “We have reported several hundred new/novel natural products, many of which have exhibited exciting biological activities.”

In the lecture, he presented the recent discoveries of drugs against breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in females all across the world, accounting to one-third of all cancers, he said.

Dr. Ehmke Pohl, a scholar from the UK, said that tuberculosis, resulting from infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was a global epidemic that had killed an estimated 1.5 million people in 2020. While global case numbers are slowly declining due to improved diagnosis and combination therapies, the threat of increasing multi-drug resistance (MDR) remains, he said, and observed that there was an urgent need to find new targets and new chemical entities for improved treatment.

Dr. Nessar Ahmed, a scholar from the UK, said that Momordica charantia or bitter melon had antioxidant properties and some studies have shown that it can reduce hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) in both animal models and humans.  Consumption of MC may not only offer a safe, cost-effective approach to managing diabetes-induced hyperglycaemia but may also provide long-term protection against chronic complications such as diabetic wound-healing, he said. Further studies are needed to understand the therapeutic potential of MC extracts in diabetic wound-healing, Dr. Ahmed pointed out.

Dr. Paul W. Denny, a scholar from the UK, in his presentation, discussed the principles and practice of antileishmanial discovery, and the importance of working with industrial partners to accelerate outcomes.

He said that Leishmaniasis was a neglected tropical disease caused by insect-vector-borne protozoan parasites of the Leishmania species. Natural products have demonstrated activity against Leishmania species, he added.

Author

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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