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London - A bunch of flowers rarely fails to lift the spirits.
But daffodils could do more than just that – they may hold the key to treating depression, research 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 proteins which push the drugs out as soon as they get in.
Nine out of ten compounds cannot penetrate the brain, research shows.
But Professor Birgen Broden, who carried out the research at the University of Copenhagen, said compounds from the South African flowers Crinum and Cyrtanthus were able to pass through the barrier.
These could eventually be used to help deliver drugs to the brain. Writing in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, he said: “Several of our plant compounds can probably be smuggled past the brain’s effective barrier proteins.
“We examined various compounds for their influence on the transporter proteins in the brain.
“Our results are promising, and several of the chemical compounds studied should therefore be tested further, as candidates for long-term drug development.”
He added: “The blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds, one reason being the very active transporter proteins.
“So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to ‘trick’ this line of defence.
“Studies of natural therapies are a valuable source of inspiration, giving us knowledge that can also be used in other contexts.”
But he warned the study was only the first stage, and it would be a long time before the compound could be developed into useable drugs. - Daily Mail