Compounds from a South African daffodil may one day be used to treat diseases originating in the brain, including depression, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of Copenhagen previously documented that substances from the South African plant species Crinum and Cyrtanthus — akin to snowdrops and daffodils — have an effect on the mechanisms in the brain involved in depression.
In the latest study, researchers said they discovered that the plant compounds can negotiate the defensive blood-brain barrier that is a key challenge in all new drug development.
“Several of our plant compounds can probably be smuggled past the brain’s effective barrier proteins,” says associate professor Birger Brodin. “The biggest challenge in medical treatment of diseases of the brain is that the drug cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier.”
“The blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds, one reason being the very active transporter proteins. You could say that the proteins pump the drugs out of the cells just as quickly as they are pumped in. So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to ‘trick’ this line of defense.”
The latest study examined various plant compounds for their influence on the transporter proteins in the brain. Brodin explained that the experiments were made in a genetically modified cell model of the blood-brain barrier that contains high levels of the transporter P-glycoprotein.
“Our results are promising, and several of the chemical compounds studied should therefore be tested further as candidates for long-term drug development,” he said.
He adds it will be a long time before a daffodil antidepressant hits the market.
“This is the first stage of a lengthy process, so it will take some time before we can determine which of the plant compounds can be used in further drug development,” he said.
The study was published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
Source: University of Copenhagen