Researchers at the Center for Aging and Regeneration at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (CARE Chile UC) are studying new alternative therapies for chronic degenerative diseases, based on naturally occurring substances that could result in treatments available sooner and at lower cost than mainstream pharmaceuticals.
The new therapies target age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer and are based on substances including St. John’s wort, a Chilean alga, and a botanical extract used in traditional medicine in India and China.
Dr. Nibaldo Inestrosa, Director of CARE Chile’s, described the center’s research priorities during a presentation at Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) headquarters on Nov. 17.
Dr. Inestrosa, a Chilean neurochemist who began working on Alzheimers in 2000, said CARE Chile brings together interdisciplinary teams of scientists and biomedical professionals to carry out basic and applied biomedical research. The center currently is focused on four main lines of investigation: an Asian botanical extract for treatment of muscular dystrophy, a Chilean alga-based drug to treat diabetes and insulin resistance, natural compounds—including lithium—for prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and memory loss, and use of an existing hypertension drug to treat cancer.
By focusing on natural substances, CARE Chile’s research promises to make new treatments available faster than is possible through traditional processes of pharmaceutical research and development.
Dr. Inestrosa described the center’s efforts as “part of a global movement to seek new compounds” for treatment of diseases that have a growing public health impact as populations age.
Chile UC currently has eight senior researchers, 13 post-doctoral researchers, and more than 30 doctoral students in its PhD program in molecular biology.
The center holds one patent and has several others pending. Dr. Inestrosa was the 2008 winner of Chile’s National Award for Natural Sciences.
CARE Chile UC was founded in 2008 with support from Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), which promotes scientific and technological education and training and works to strengthen and develop Chile’s capacities in basic and applied science and technology.