MORE than a culinary ingredient, another species of pandan may soon be used to treat tuberculosis, leprosy, and other bacterial and viral infections.

Mario Tan, a College of Science chemistry professor and researcher at the UST Research Center for the Natural Sciences, discovered two new alkaloids from a type of pandan commonly found in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

A nitrogen-containing chemical compound, an alkaloid is important in developing painkillers and anti-asthma drugs.

The chemical compounds discovered by Tan were Dubiusamine–A and Dubiusamine–B from a pandan species known as Pandanus dubius. Once the medicinal properties of these compounds are proven effective, possible drug alternatives that cure various illnesses like rheumatism and headache, and serious diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy may be developed, according to the researcher.

Tan said that unlike other plant species, pandan has only a few known alkaloids. Some of them are usually found in Pandanus amaryllifollius, the species of pandan that gives rice a flavorful and aromatic smell.

“The majority of alkaloid research focuses on P. amaryllifolius or pandang mabango in Filipino, [so] we wanted to search for other species of pandan containing alkaloids, and based on our screening, only P. dubius has been positive to alkaloids aside from P. amaryllifolius,” he said.

The ‘twins’

Tan has successfully isolated nine different alkaloids from P. dubius, but his discovery of the twin alkaloids, (Dubiusamine–A and Dubiusamine–B) which were never isolated in other pandan species, is considered groundbreaking.

The findings in the unique chemical structure of the “twin” compounds are pioneering steps in terms of phytochemical work (study of chemical compounds present in plants) on P. dubius. Also, the isolation of new alkaloids will add to the limited number of “Pandanus alkaloids” in scientific literature.

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Dubiusamines–A and –B contain a pharmacophore that is also present in other pandan species, Tan said. A pharmacophore is a group of atoms responsible for a drug’s anti-tuberculosis, antibiotic, and hypoglycemic activities.

“We haven’t tested the biological activities of Dubiusamines–A and –B [yet] because my focus [before] was purely chemistry. I wanted to isolate new compounds and elucidate the structure. So right now, I am focusing on the biological evaluation of these alkaloids,” Tan said.

He added that aside from focusing on the pharmacological potentials of the newly discovered alkaloids from P. dubius, he would also investigate its sedative and diuretic potentials.

“The objective now is to know what compounds are responsible for the sedative effect, prevention of urinary tract infections, and the compounds responsible for the diuretic activity,” he said.

In developing drugs, a compound’s toxicity level must be highly considered as too much amount of a chemical compound may intoxicate the body.

Tan’s research was one of the top three finalists in the National Academy of Science and Technology Talent Search for Young Scientists. Winners will be announced on July 12. Giuliani Renz G. Paas

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