A practical method has been developed by Yale University researchers to create a compound called huperzine A found in Chinese club moss. This compound is believed to treat Alzheimer's disease.
They believe that the compound could also potentially combat the effects of chemical warfare agents.
Until now, researchers have only been able to derive small amounts of the compound directly from the Huperzia serrata plant, or had to resort to lengthy and cumbersome methods to synthesize it in the lab.
Now researchers at Yale have developed a practical and cost-effective method to synthesize huperzine A in the lab. The process requires just eight steps and produces a yield of 40 percent. Previously, the best synthetic techniques had required twice as many steps and achieved yields of only two percent.
"Being able to synthesize large amounts of huperzine A in the lab is crucial because the plant itself, which has been used in Chinese folk medicine for centuries, takes decades to grow and is nearing extinction due to overharvesting," said Seth Herzon, the Yale chemist who led the research.
Herzon and his team have partnered with an industrial firm to help produce the compound on larger scales.
The firm plans to comprehensively evaluate the therapeutic potential of huperzine A by conducting clinical trials for several different neurological disorders in the U.S.
"We believe huperzine A has the potential to treat a range of neurologic disorders more effectively than the current options available," Herzon said. "And we now have a route to huperzine A that rivals nature's pathway."
The study was recently published in the journal Chemical Science.