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HKBU scholars gain US patent for discovery of natural compound with therapeutic effect in treatment of ulcerative colitis

27 Oct 2016

Professor Bian Zhaoxiang (left) and Miss Mu Huaixue are awarded a US patent for their Chinese medicines research findings
Professor Bian Zhaoxiang (left) and Miss Mu Huaixue are awarded a US patent for their Chinese medicines research findings
Histological manifestation shows that administration of "Pd-Ib" generates remarkable improvement in mucosal architectural distortion
Histological manifestation shows that administration of "Pd-Ib" generates remarkable improvement in mucosal architectural distortion

A study conducted by Professor Bian Zhaoxiang, Director of the Clinical Division of the School of Chinese Medicine (SCM), and Miss Mu Huaixue, Senior Research Assistant at the Clinical Division, found that a natural compound “Pd-Ib” extracted from the Chinese herbs Bupleurum malconense has been shown to effectively alleviate the possible illness arising from acute colitis. The research team was granted a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for the study. The team expressed the hope that “Pd-Ib” would be further developed into a new drug for the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a subtype of inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the colonic mucosa, and may lead to perforation and bowel cancer in severe cases. It has recently become a major public health problem in many affluent cities. According to statistics, Hong Kong has seen a drastic six-fold increase in the morbidity rate of ulcerative colitis from 1990 to 2010. The underlying cause of such a disease is still unknown and treatments with promising results have yet to be identified. As for current practice, medication is commonly applied to control and alleviate the illness generated from the symptoms of the disease. However the efficacy result has been unsatisfactory with patients suffering from a certain level of side-effects.

A specialist in gastrointestinal disease research and related clinical treatment, Professor Bian Zhaoxiang explained that the species of Bupleurum is widely used in the treatment of inflammation-related diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel syndrome and cholecystitis. Modern pharmacological studies have indicated that the bioactive components of Bupleurum help strengthen the immune system and serve the functions of being analgesic, hypolipidemic, antipyretic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. Bupleurummalconense belongs to the species of Bupleurum and appears to disperse heat and soothe liver qi stagnation.

In the study, the research team purified the natural compound “Pd-Ib” from Bupleurum malconense and evaluated its therapeutic efficacy in a DSS-induced acute colitis mouse model. The findings showed that “Pd-Ib” substantially reduced the disease colonic index and colonic tissue damage, inhibited the shortening of colon length, and suppressed colonic myeloperoxidase activity and nitric oxide levels. Furthermore, “Pd-Ib” exerted significant anti-inflammatory effects in LPS-stimulated RAW cells. The research results were published in the international academic journals Chinese Medicine and Journal of Nature Products in February and April 2016 respectively.

Professor Bian said that while traditional Chinese medicines and natural products vary in their therapeutic effects, this study scientifically verified the treatment efficacy of Chinese medicines. In addition, it lays a foundation and provides good reference for drug development and encourages researchers to further explore the potential use of different Chinese medicines and natural products for medication in the future, thereby benefiting the community at large.