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Bioactivity of Medicinal Bolivian Andean plants. Effects on cell proliferation and related processes.

  • Gloria Rodrigo
Publiceringsår: 2012
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Doktorsavhandling
Förlag: Lund University


Popular Abstract in English

Bolivia is the seventh richest country regarding biodiversity in the world. Also, in its territory more than 36 indigenous nations co-exist. Each of these has traditional medicines that are passed on from generation to generation orally. It has been estimated that the Bolivian flora has more than 20,000 plant species. Some of these are being explored for their pharmaceutical potential, especially for diseases of developing countries where medical costs must be restricted. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in the world, and the prognosis is poor.

In the work for this thesis, I evaluated forty different Bolivian plants that are used in traditional medicine or as foods, regarding their capacity to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Also, three compounds isolated from them were evaluated and some experiments were done to understand the mechanism(s) involved in growth inhibition.

Extracts from six plants, Schkuria pinnata, Piper longestylosum, Parastrephia lepidophyla, Erodium cicutarium, Ambrosia arborescens, and Bacharis latifolia—at high concentrations—had the capacity to reduce the growth rate of colon cancer cells.

The three compounds isolated were all sesquiterpenes with different chemical characteristics. Curcuphenol, a sesquiterpene phenol, inhibited colon cancer cell growth and induced cell death due to apoptosis or programmed cell death. Damsin and coronopilin are sesquiterpene lactones; damsin inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells more than coronopilin, although their chemical structures are similar. Colon cancer cells exposed to damsin and coronopilin showed a marked reduction in DNA synthesis and and the data indicated that apoptosis had been stimulated at least by damsin in these cells.

These results thus showed some anti-cancer activity in Bolivian plants and compounds derived from them. Other studies should be performed to give us a better understanding of the chemical composition of these plants and the mechanisms behind the ability of these substances to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Colon cancer is common in both developed and developing countries, and is responsible for at least 600,000 deaths globally every year. It is therefore the second most common cause of cancer-related mortality. Extensive studies are being conducted worldwide to find more effective drugs that can be used in cancer treatment. In these studies, phytochemicals have proven to be good sources for drug discovery. In Bolivia, there is a long tradition of using plants for medicinal purposes. The objective of the present thesis was to study the effects of extracts and compounds from medicinal plants in Bolivia on the growth of colon cancer (Caco-2) cells. Firstly, a survey of many plant extracts and some isolated compounds for their antiproliferative activity was performed. Sixty-six extracts from thirty-two medicinal plants and 15 extracts from 8 food plants were evaluated for antiproliferative activity in Caco-2 cells. Extracts from 7 plant species showed antiproliferative activity but in most of the preparations tested no cytotoxic activity was observed at the concentrations used. Secondly, some assays including DNA replication, DNA degradation, oligonucleosomal formation, and caspase-3 activity were performed to understand the mechanism by which the compounds isolated affect cell proliferation and cell death. Curcuphenol, isolated from Baccharis genistelloides and Myrmekioderma styx, and damsin and coronopilin, isolated from Ambrosia arborescens, were found to inhibit cell proliferation and to induce cell death in colon cancer cells. Further studies are needed to find new anti-cancer compounds in medicinal plants in Bolivia.


Lecture Hall C, Center for Chemistry, Getingevägen 60, Lund University Faculty of Engineering
  • Lars Bohlin


  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Bolivian medicinal plants
  • colon cancer
  • cell proliferation
  • DNA synthesis
  • apoptosis
  • caspase-3
  • sesquiterpene
  • curcuphenol
  • damsin
  • coronopilin


  • Björn Åkesson
  • ISBN: 978-91-7422-298-2

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