STUDY FOUND HIGHLY INTERESTING COMPOUNDS IN WILD PLANT

SARSAPARILLA HAS SECONDARY METABOLITES THAT HAVE PROTECTIVE FUNCTIONS FOR THE PLANT AND CAN BE APPLIED TO ANIMALS OR HUMANS.



June 10, 2016

Sarsaparilla, a wild plant that few can identify, gains more value after the results of a study carried out at the Institute of Chemistry of Natural Resources of our University, which showed this plant’s high content of beneficial health compounds.

Felipe Jiménez Aspée, who just earned a PhD in Research and Development of Bioactive Products, was in charge of the study. Jimenez said that in Chile there are more than 20 species of sarsaparilla - Ribes spp - of which the most abundant is located in Patagonia - Ribes magallanicum -, but another species can also be found in the Maule Region, the Ribes tribolum, present especially in the sector of Vilches Altos.

Concerning the properties of this fruit, which grows in bunches, he observed that they have high levels of phenols. "We have seen that the major phenolic compounds are the anthocyanins, which give the red color to the berries, and we have discovered its antioxidant and protective properties against free radicals," he said.

"We found around 24 different anthocyanins, the main ones are the delphinidin and cyanidin, which are the same that are present on the European species, which are widely consumed", he added.

He explained that phenols are composed of secondary metabolites that have protective functions at the plant level and those properties can also be transmitted to animals or humans. One of the effects is as an anti-inflammatory.

"Is also interesting that in models of human epithelial cells these compounds generate cytoprotection against free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that are able to induce damage on biomolecules, in conditions of imbalance or stress, which can cause non-transmissible chronic diseases", said Felipe Jiménez. In this regard, he added that the Ribes species is able to modify the cell’s response against a free radical.

Projections

Regarding the value of the research, he said that there was no description of the bioactivity of these fruits before this and other studies carried out at the Institute. In this way, the knowledge generated is the basis to explore a whole new potential, through the development of initiatives supported by innovation funds, in order to produce, for example, healthy food. In addition, research for the development of his PhD thesis allowed him to generate five articles already published and another that is pending.

The academic of the Institute, Guillermo Schmeda, confirmed the possibility of developing some products, but before that, it is necessary to carry out some ways of intellectual property protection "because some ideas can be very creative, but are immediately at risk of being copied".



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