As you raise your pint glass on St. Patrick’s Day, know that the hops in that beer you’re drinking have medicinal potential. But the amber liquid you’re guzzling probably isn’t the best delivery mechanism.
“Even if you’re getting a medicinal amount, you’re not getting it in probably the best way,” said Univ. of Idaho’s Kristopher Waynant. “We all now there’s positive effects from drinking beer, but I don’t think those positive effects are medicinal.”
Waynant briefed the press on his team’s research regarding the medicinal power of beer hops at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, which was held in San Diego.
Beer hops contain compounds known as humulones and lupulones, the former are alpha acids and the latter are beta acids. These compounds are found in the resin material of hop cones, and are responsible for endowing beer with its bitter taste. According to Waynant, alpha acids possess antibacterial properties and are integral to preventing beer spoilage. Further, a myriad of studies have shown they possess anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
“But just because a natural compound is biologically active doesn’t mean that it should be a medicine,” Waynant said. “Or that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great medicine.”
“We are working on synthesizing humulone and lupulone derivatives,” said Waynant, noting that his team of synthetic chemists are trying to create compounds with higher degrees of bioactivity than their natural counterparts.
Waynant said the team is creating a library of compounds, with hopes of producing between 10 and 20 that will go on for screening. He mentioned the team is working with a pharmaceutical company on the project. They’re searching for synthesizing methods that can enhance the compounds, thereby making them better medicinal agents.
The process isn’t without its difficulties. “The researchers start with phloroglucinol—a commercially available compound that is derived from plants,” according to the American Chemical Society. “So far, they have been developing multi-step processes to synthesize three types of humulones…The team is still working on tweaking the final step of converting the intermediate products in the desired humulones efficiently.”
Waynant’s team hopes their work will help create the next generation of medicines.
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