Could the sorts of compounds you're investigating be made synthetically?

Most of the phytochemicals we are looking at are very complex molecules which would be difficult to prepare synthetically.

For pharmaceuticals in general you need very high purity compounds and you need to go through years and years of testing. We are looking for variants or accessions or types of plants that have a simplified profile that would make it easier to isolate pure compounds. That's one of our goals - to obtain pure, individual components and see whether there's some pharmaceutical potential, or whether we might convert those compounds into a potential pharmaceutical compound.

The compounds that the plants make are very complex, so a lot of them would be very difficult to prepare totally chemically. But remember, we're working with many different genotypes of cow cockle, and the chemicals that they produce can differ in amount and type. The diversity is kind of nice as a screening tool - if you're looking for a potential pharmaceutical or a herbal food additive with health benefits it's a nice starting point, because if you can fractionate and obtain different fractions then maybe you can get a better idea of which ones you want. For example, you might find a plant that produces a lot more of certain kinds of active components.


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