A brew administered by African witch doctors to pregnant women to hasten labour and delivery could be a source of promising new drugs.
The brew, concocted from the leaves of “kalata-kalata” and belonging to a class of proteins called cyclotides, can be modified to combat resistent bugs and even AIDS, says a new study by David Craik, professor, University of Queensland Australia
Proteins already number among the world’s most important medicines. Insulin, for instance, is a protein. Many other proteins could become life-saving medicines, according to a statement of the American Chemical Society.
But there’s a problem with proteins and smaller chunks of proteins called peptides, which are chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
They cannot be taken orally because the body breaks down during digestion, just like the protein in meat or soy.
But cyclotides have a strong internal architecture not damaged by gastric juices when taken by the mouth, potentially opening the way to promising new drugs.