Friday, October 12

Tomatillo: A Cure for Cancer?

Researchers study shows Tomatillo fights Cancer!

For decades the native prairie plant with tomato-like vines, and marbled-sized fruit covered in thin husks, has sprawled across the Kansas prairie in relative obscurity.
But scientists from around the world are now noticing the wild tomatillo, and wondering if it might provide a major medicinal breakthrough.

"We've found compounds from the wild tomatillo that have strong anti-cancer properties against breast cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer and brain cancer in our early studies," said Mark Cohen, cancer physician and research scientist who has been working with the plant for more than two years.
"It's very exciting that (wild tomatillo compounds) do have a strong potency effect against cancer and do not have significant toxicity against other cells so far in our evaluations," said Cohen, who is directing laboratory testing on the wild tomatillo compounds furnished by Timmermann.

Initially Cohen did so at the KU School of Medicine. He took the chores with him to a new job at the University of Michigan.

"We've found 15 new molecules in the plant previously not known to science," said Barbara TimmermannUniversity of Kansas medicinal chemistry chair. "Nobody knew they existed and several of them are so active against cancer."
And it's not like this is some super-delicate plant from some far away corner of the Amazon.
Wild tomatillos, Physalis longifolia, are a tough, prolific prairie plant currently thriving over much of the central United States.
(They're related to a domestic variety of tomatillo, but scientists don't know if it has similar characteristics.)

The Native Medicinal Plant Research Program began in 2010 as a joint venture using the strengths of the Kansas Biological Survey, the KU School of Pharmacy and the KU School of Medicine.
Timmermann and Kelly Kindscher, a biological survey senior scientist, have long seen the Kansas prairies as a potential pharmacy waiting to be explored.

"Everybody has been going to the rain forest and other exotic places for research," said Timmermann, who has about 30 years of experience researching medicinal plants, "but we knew the Midwest had so many plants nobody had ever really looked at."
Kindscher, a noted expert on America's prairies, had also learned that for centuries native tribes were utilizing a number of plants for medicinal purposes before the state was settled.

While Kindscher and crew eventually provided about 200 different species of prairie plants for testing, wild tomatillos quickly gained the most attention because of the findings in Timmermann's lab.As well as testing how the wild tomatillo compounds perform against cancer, the plants were also tested to see how they react to other kinds of human cells.

It would be possible, Cohen said, for a compound to be very aggressive against cancer but too toxic to healthy human cells to become a viable treatment.

Kindscher said some of the highest levels of cancer-fighting compounds are found in the plant's fruit. "The fruit is edible, and actually tastes very good," he said, "especially when it's ripe."
Acquiring enough of that fruit shouldn't be a problem in the future.

Wild tomatillos are so common Kindscher referred to them as "a common field weed" that grows on native prairies, pastures and farmlands, roughly from New Mexico to Montana and as far east as Ohio. "It's probably one of the few (prairie) plants that are doing about as well as ever," he said. "It's common because it can grow in a lot of areas. Unlike a lot of prairie plants it does well on disturbed soils." He said it grows well along roadsides or where the soil has been scarred by livestock. It's common in farm fields, too. Kindscher is certain it could be grown commercially, too. The perennial plant has proven to be hardy to temperature and rainfall extremes.

Heartland is a Manhattan-based bio-technology company backing plant-based research. In the spring, nearing the end of the program's second year, Timmermann was told funding would stop immediately.

But one thing this miracle plant cannot do, is pay for its own research. All three scientists said funding is now their greatest worry.