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Tequila raw ingredient being developed into drug-carrier that targets colon diseases

CHICAGO, March 27 Compounds derived from the blue agave, a fruit used to make tequila, shows promise in early laboratory studies as a natural, more effective way to deliver drugs to the colon than conventional drug-carriers, according to chemists at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. The development could lead to improved treatments for ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, Crohns disease and other colon diseases, they say.

Drug delivery to the colon is an ongoing challenge to physicians. Many drugs are destroyed by stomach acids before theyve had a chance to reach the intestine, where they usually are absorbed. Researchers have tried to circumvent this problem by inserting the drugs into carrier molecules that resist breakdown in the stomach but have had difficulty finding a suitable carrier compound.

The tequila compounds, a class of polysaccharides known as fructans, were developed by the scientists in Mexico into tiny microspheres that are capable of carrying existing drugs that are used to treat colon diseases. Because the compounds resist destruction in the stomach, they could allow more of the drugs to reach the colon intact and improve their effectiveness, the researchers say. Their study was presented today at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

This study shows that the agave fruit is good for more than just tequila. It also has medicinal value, says study leader Guillermo Toriz, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the university. Agave fructan is the ideal natural carrier of drugs for the colon.

Researchers have known for some time that fructans, which are polymers of fructose, are resistant to acid degradation and theorized that they might be a useful drug delivery vehicle. But only a few plant sources, such as agave, contain fructans in large amounts. The agave fruit is 80 percent fructans by weight when ripe, the researchers say.

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