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Innovative non-animal strategies to assess the toxicity and biological activity of candidate drugs derived from medicianl plants (IN-NATAL)

Research project BL/50/SA3 (Research action BL)


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PROJECT DESCRIPTION

South Africa (SA) has an important history in the use of medicinal plants. Most of the traditional medicinal plants have real therapeutic value, and therefore, they can be the starting point for the development of new drugs. By identifying the active ingredients of the medicinal plants, analogues can be produced synthetically which may have a higher bioavailability or even be more potent compared to the original compounds. Drug candidates need to be tested for their toxicity. Toxicity screening of drug candidates is preferentially done early in drug development in order to reduce costs. Both for the identification of promising active ingredients and their toxicity assessment, the use of innovative non-animal test methods is recommanded. Theuse of in vivo animal experiments has indeed been challenged due to ethical but also to economic and scientific concerns.

Within the project experiences with non-animal methods for evaluating the therapeutic activity and/or toxicity of both medicinal plants and drugs derived thereof will be exchanged. Partnering researchers with different & complementary backgrounds will further exchange to address the following scientific questions:
(1) Which non-animal tests (e.g. in vitro and in silico methods) can be used to screen medicinal plants and medicinal plant-based candidate drugs for their therapeutic activity/toxicity?
(2) How can the development and implementation of new non-animal tests for these applications be improved?
(3) Are modifications to these tests needed to make them compatible with medicinal plants and/or medicinal plant-based candidate drugs?
(4) Will the results of non-animal tests be easily accepted? If not, how to improve acceptance?

SC covers various aspects of toxicology, with focus on genotoxicity and has international experience in the use of non-animal testing methods (incl. PARERE, RE-PLACE). She is also co-coordinating RE-Place, a project which aims to centralize the information on alternative methods to animal testing present in Flanders and Brussels in a publicly available database.
MUT has some experience in testing of medicinal plants for genotoxicity. The s research mainly focuses on thr therapeutic potentia, , in particular the antigenotoxic and anticarcinogenic properties of plant extracts & compounds as a step in the development of cancer chemopreventive agents.

A direct impact as by exchanging experiences and organizing trainings and webinars, MUT will be able to implement new innovative non-animal methods in their laboratory whereas SC will obtain further knowledge on medicinal plants and how to test them for their therapeutic activity;
A long-lasting impact as by several workshops and bilateral lab visits, both partners obtain further insights in each other’s expertise, resulting in joint research proposals. Furthermore, by including Master and Postgraduate students in the trainings, the project will have a long-term impact.



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