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Northwestern chemists develop new method for synthesizing anti-cancer flavonoids

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Flavonoids. Youve heard of them -- the good-for-your-health compounds found in plants that we enjoy in red wine, dark chocolate, green tea and citrus fruits. Mother Nature is an ace at making them, producing different ones by the thousands, but no chemist has figured out a good way to synthesize a special class of these chemicals in the laboratory. Until now.

Karl Scheidt, assistant professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, and his research team have synthesized 10 different flavanones, a type of flavonoid, using a new general method they developed that takes advantage of one simple catalyst.

The basic research gives chemists -- for the first time -- a method for making new molecules based on flavonoids, setting the stage for the development of new cancer therapeutics. The teams findings will be reported today in the April 4 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

Flavonoids, a broad family with more than 2,000 reported compounds, provides many different structures for chemists to investigate. In addition to those with anti-cancer activity, researchers could mimic flavonoids with beneficial properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-viral or antibiotic.

The natural sources of the flavanones Scheidt chose to mimic? Milk thistle, soy, grapefruit and kosam, a root used in traditional Korean medicine, to name a few. All are known for their anti-cancer properties.

"Im using nature as an inspiration for the development of new anti-tumor products," said Scheidt, who now will focus on using his method to develop molecules that will be effective against prostate cancer. "We have developed an enabling technology that opens up a new opportunity to make these flavanone compounds from scratch and to design them to do many things, including fight cancer. A better understanding of the flavanones modes of action will help us improve thei
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
4-Apr-2007


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