Researchers delve into weed
Updated: Saturday, October 17, 2009 10:34 AM
Artemisia could be used to naturally control parasites on poultry farms
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington researchers have received funding from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund for a three-year project to examine the weed artemisia, a tall, broadleaf plant.
Scientists at University of Washington and Washington State University are looking for ways to fight cancer in people and animals and are exploring use of the weed in the poultry industry to control parasites.
The project is led by Tomikazu Sasaki, UW associate professor of chemistry. The total project received about $1.3 million, with WSU subcontracted for about $481,000.
Artemisia is a plant that has been used since ancient times. It produces artemisinin, an active ingredient in malaria treatments. It is especially useful in assisting patients who have developed resistance to conventional drug treatments, WSU professor Bill Pan said.
The plant may have antibacterial properties and be used to fight bacterial infections in poultry, Pan said.
WSU assistant professor of oncology Jeffrey Bryan said artemisinin doesn't have residual effects like other drugs used to kill protozoal parasites such as malaria. A natural method to control such parasites may allow poultry consumers to avoid chemical residues in the meat. WSU crop and soil scientist Ian Burke is leading that aspect of the research, Bryan said.
Researchers are targeting the annual variety of the weed, which produces the artemisinin, Pan said.
WSU will be sending out different seed sources to see what is required to grow healthy seedlings in greenhouses. The seedlings will be tested in several different growing conditions in the state.
Bryan hopes to test artemisinin in canine lymphoma patients at WSU's School of Veterinary Medicine, sensitizing the cells that typically resist treatment to make chemotherapy more effective.
Dogs are a better model for naturally occurring cancer, Bryan said. The UW group is looking at breast cancer patients in people because the same genes in dog lymphoma also appear to cause chemotherapy resistance in human breast cancer.
Matthew Weaver is based in Spokane. E-mail: email@example.com.