A plant used in traditional Chinese medicine is being investigated for medicinal compounds which may help treat cancer and liver disease.
Compounds in the root of the plant can kill human cancer cells but leave the healthy cells untouched.
Chinese skullcap – Scutellaria baicalensis – known in Chinese Medicine as Huang – is traditionally used as a treatment for fever, lung and liver complaints.
The compounds from skullcap have anti-viral and anti-oxidant effects but can also halt tumour growth, according to new research led by Prof Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre.
Prof Martin has been collaborating with Chinese scientists on traditional medicinal plants.
“It’s exciting to consider that the plants which have been used as traditional Chinese remedies for thousands of years may lead to effective modern medicines,” she said.
The team hopes to produce the compounds in large quantities to enable further research into their potential medicinal uses.