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Can an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

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The modern pharmaceutical industry based on synthetic chemistry severed the historical connection between plants, food and medicines. The growing costs of discovering new chemical entity-based drugs through high throughput screening methods may yet again reconnect plants and human health at a new level of technological sophistication. Multicomponent botanical therapeutics that comprise functional foods, dietary supplements and botanical drugs hold several advantages over conventional drugs that may earn them a more prominent place in the medicine of the future. They can deliver mixtures of multi-functional molecules with potentiating and synergistic effects and pleiotropic targeting at a reasonable cost and with fewer regulatory constraints. They are well suited for long-term disease prevention in an era of genetic testing and increased life expectancy. They also provide additional vehicles for delivering health and wellness. Technologies that address the needs of discovery, development and manufacturing of multi-component botanical therapeutics are emerging. They include computational and bioinformatics approaches, cell based gene expression and high-content screening systems, and phytochemical elicitation and unique plant cultivation / extraction methods designed to optimize the production of bioactives, standardize overall extract composition and assure batch-to-batch product consistency. Nevertheless, multi-component botanical therapeutics carry risks associated with potential interactions with conventional drugs and adverse reactions, which are difficult to detect and diagnose. They face problems of acceptance by the medical community and pharmaceutical industry, safety and efficacy validation, poor standardization and quality control, and difficulties in identifying active ingredients and determining their complex mode(s) of action. Solving these problems will accelerate the merger of grocery stores with pharmacies and agriculture with chemical manufacturing and provide physicians and patients with broader and more individualized choices for disease prevention and treatment.
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Keywords: botanical drugs; botanical therapeutics; botanicals; dietary supplements; drug discovery; functional foods; human health; natural products; nutraceuticals; phytochemicals

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Biotech Center, Cook College, Rutgers University, 59 Dudley Rd., New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901-8520, USA.

Publication date: 01 October 2004

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  • Current Pharmaceutical Design publishes timely in-depth reviews covering all aspects of current research in rational drug design. Each issue is devoted to a single major therapeutic area. A Guest Editor who is an acknowledged authority in a therapeutic field has solicits for each issue comprehensive and timely reviews from leading researchers in the pharmaceutical industry and academia.

    Each thematic issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design covers all subject areas of major importance to modern drug design, including: medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, drug targets and disease mechanism.
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