The module will include a review on the discovery and use of plant medicines and phyto-therapeutically important molecules obtained from plants. Certain aspects of natural product chemistry i.e. the biosynthesis, ecological role and toxicity of the three main classes of secondary compounds; terpenoids, phenolics, and alkaloids are discussed. An introduction to the principles and applications of metabolomics is presented. The role of these natural products in defense against microorganisms and herbivores is reviewed during the module. The importance of ethnobotany and phylogenetics in modern drug discovery from biodiversity will presented along with legal and ethical considerations surrounding bioprospecting. This will follow on with modern theories and practices regarding sustainable utilisation and conservation of medicinal plants. The basics of alternative medicines, with an emphasis on traditional African and Chinese medicines, are also discussed as well as current evidence-based research and product development derived from these. Biotechnological approaches to medicinal natural product production, ‘farmer to pharma’, will be covered, including plant cell culture and bioreactors. Practical sessions on drug discovery approaches using chromatographic techniques for phytochemical analysis of secondary metabolites such as tannins, alkaloids, and saponins are conducted. Bioassays on micro-organisms are also done during the practical sessions in order to develop the skills for the potential discovery of new antibiotics.
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