A climbing shrub used since ancient times as a treatment for diabetes in Sri Lanka and India is taking root in a new therapeutic treatment for Type 2 diabetes.
A pair of researchers working with chemist Mario Pinto, SFU’s vice-president, research, have studied the plant called Salacia reticulata(Kothala himbutu in Sinhalese). Used in centuries-old Ayurvedic medicine, patients drink water that is left to sit overnight in a cup made from the wood of the plant.
A group of Japanese researchers found the solution strongly inhibited elevations in the blood glucose levels of rats, and later isolated two active principal compounds from this root and assigned the structure of one of them, salacinol.
Building on previous studies by Pinto and colleagues, PhD student Sankar Mohan and postdoctoral fellow Jayakanthan Kumarasamy are the first to establish the absolute stereochemical structure of two of the most active principles in Salacia reticulata (kotalanol and de-O-sulfonated kotalanol).
The compounds slow down the action of enzymes in the small intestine, called glucosidases, which are responsible for the degradation of carbohydrates into glucose, thus reducing glucose levels in the blood after a meal.
The pair was able to synthesize the compounds and compare them with those extracted from the plant. Their findings currently appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society( 2009)
The compounds can be synthesized and used as drug candidates for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes in Western medicine, and to validate herbal remedies (including Kothala himbutu tea) in Eastern medicine.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funded the initial study while the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is funding the current research.