Scientists from US have discovered a chemical in pepper plant, called long pepper, having anti-cancer properties, whose medicinal properties date back thousands of years. According to researchers, the secret lies in a chemical called Piperlongumine (PL), which has shown activity against many cancers including prostate, breast, lung, colon, lymphoma, leukemia, primary brain tumours and gastric cancer. Using X-Ray crystallography, the researchers were able to create molecular structures that showed how the chemical is transformed after being ingested. The PL converts to hPL, an active drug that silences a gene called GSTP1, which produces a detoxification enzyme that is often overly abundant in tumours. “We are hopeful that our structure will enable additional drug development efforts to improve the potency of PL for use in a wide range of cancer therapies,”said Dr Kenneth Westover from the University of Texas`s southwestern medical centre. Adding, “This research is a spectacular demonstration of the power of x-ray crystallography,” Westover added. Long pepper, commonly found in India, is used as a spice in some Indian, North American, Indonesian and Malaysian foods, but is rarely used in European dishes. “The study illustrates the importance of examining and re-examining our theories. In this case we learned something fundamentally new about a 3,000-year-old medical claim using modern science.

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