Chinese Herbal Medicine Compounds May Not Be Clues To Diabetes Treatments After All | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 12 | p. 35 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 25, 2013

Chinese Herbal Medicine Compounds May Not Be Clues To Diabetes Treatments After All

Total synthesis of tatanans provides enough material to repeat biochemical tests of putative enzyme activators
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Life Sciences
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Organic SCENE
Keywords: total synthesis, natural product, tatanan, type 2 diabetes, sigmatropic rearrangement, glucokinase

In the search for treatments of type 2 diabetes, scientists have been studying molecules that activate gluco­kinase. The enzyme catalyzes the first step in the human body’s breakdown of glucose and controls insulin secretion. In 2011, a trio of molecules named tatanans A–C that were purified from a traditional Chinese medicine attracted attention because they appeared to be the first natural products known to activate glucokinase. After completing the total synthesis of the tatanans, a team is now calling the original result into question (Nat. Chem., DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1597). Armen Zakarian and coworkers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, teamed with Brian G. Miller of Florida State University to take on the tatanans. They devised a 13-step route to tatanan A that used consecutive sigma­tropic rearrangements to set three adjacent chiral centers. They relied on a different approach to make tatanans B and C. When they repeated the 2011 experiments with human glucokinase and the synthesized tatanans, they saw no enzyme activation. It’s possible that another natural product was the glucokinase activator in the original study, the team speculates, and that it tagged along with the tatanans during isolation from the medicinal plant.

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Benjamin  (March 29, 2013 5:21 PM)
Two biggest mistakes in the article.

1) the tile is very silly, too big to target whole TCM system. Didn't-find-it doesn't mean there-isn't. As I know there is a herbal prescription to cure, which western medcines have never achieved yet.
2) The common mistake for TCM research in US and Europe is that they don’t understand the five-factor philosophy, which is used to develop TCM.
TCM prescriptions might hit the disease targets directly, but many prescriptions are used to stimulate other organisms to cure the body. Especially in virus control and organism disorders.
Diabetes is a typical organism disorder. They are many biology mechanisms that cause diabetes. Different people have different reasons. We shouldn’t expect one chemical to hit all receptors. The best way is to use a combination mixture to stimulate the body’s self-healing function.
There is a herbal prescription that works for diabetes II. If someone use this prescription for screening, he will found nothing to hit any diabetes models/assays.

TCM integration need culture background to start with.
JB  (April 12, 2013 10:26 AM)

I believe you might have missed the context of this article. The initial JOC article (Ni, et al.) reported three chemical structures (tatanans A-C) that were shown to activate glucokinase in kinetic assays. Zakarian, et al. synthesized these reported molecules and Miller, et al. repeated the kinetic assays.

The main difference in the publications is that one group isolated the tatanans from source while another synthesized them. Interestingly, the assays with the synthesized tatanans showed no activation of glucokinase, and certainly no where near the level of activation reported by Ni, et al.

Five-factor philosophies and herbal prescriptions are irrelevant in this context. Synthesized tatanans and extracted tatanans are the same molecules and should therefore possess the same bioactivity, unless some unknown active agent was co-purified in Ni's extraction.

This article isn't calling into question the entirety of TCM, but merely these three compounds' effectiveness.
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