Daffodils may hold the key to treating depression, research by academics of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark suggests.
Scientists have discovered that compounds in South African species of snowdrops and daffodils are able to pass through the blood brain barrier, the defensive wall which keeps the brain isolated.
The barrier is a major problem for doctors treating brain conditions such as depression as it contains transporter proteins which push the drugs out as soon as they get in.
According to Professor Birger Brodin, who carried out the research, they examined various compounds for their influence on the transporter proteins in the brain.
Blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds. Nine out of ten compounds cannot penetrate the brain because of the very active transporter proteins.
Prof. Brodin writing in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, said: ‘Several of our plant compounds can probably be smuggled past the brain’s effective barrier proteins. ‘So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to ‘trick’ this line of defense.
These could eventually be used to help deliver drugs to the brain and treating brain diseases, as compounds from daffodils were able to pass through the barrier.
In their research group they focused on the body’s barrier tissue specifically the transport of drug compounds across the blood-brain barrier, according to Prof. Brodin.
‘More than 90 per cent of all potential drugs fail the test by not making it through the barrier, or being pumped out as soon as they do get in.’
He warns, however, that it will be a long time before the compound is developed into useable drugs.
‘This is the first stage of a lengthy process, so it will take some time before we can determine which of the plant compounds can be used in further drug development,’ he added.