African herbs could hold key to drug for fractured bones

Indian scientists have found that three African herbs used by traditional healers in Cameroon can accelerate repairing of bones, opening up a new avenue to find out what could be the world’s first oral medicine for fractured bones.

At the moment there is no oral medicine for fractured bones which are healed naturally. Limbs are made immobile through plasters and patients are advised rest so that the natural bone formation process can take place.

In laboratory experiment on rats, three African herbs have been found to accelerated the process. “Besides accelerating bone-repair, the quality of repair is good when compared against the control,” N Chattopadhyay, a scientist at Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow who studied the plants along with Cameroon researchers told Deccan Herald.

Researchers had brought seven plants used by local healers for bone repair to the CDRI where laboratory analysis found that out of six plants, two contain compounds to quicken bone growth, the team reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

One of the plants is Elephantopus mollis whose leaves and twigs are used. The second plant is called Spilanthesis Africana and the whole plant is needed for traditional treatment. In the experiment on rats, 250 mg of the first plant extract and 750 mg of the second plant were found effective to speed up the bone formation process.

However, it is the seventh plant, which researchers found the most promising for drug development because of its higher potency. In the absence of patent protection, scientists are not revealing the plant’s name but maintained it is not found in India. “We are currently deducing the compound’s structure. Subsequently, we will isolate it from plant and then carry out toxicological studies. We will also make it synthetically as extracting it from an African plant will not be an economical option,” he said.

The CDRI team is in search of a novel material for accelerated bone healing, which if found and made into a commercial medicine, will be a runway success as it can cut down time for patients. “In the 12th plan we will focus more on our collaboration with Africa.
Many more such breakthroughs will come if we work together,” said S K Brahmachari, director general of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – the parent body of CDRI.

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