The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology has initiated Ayurveda Inspired Discovery (AID) project to accelerate molecular level studies into medicinal plants and products used in ayurveda with the aim of identifying their active compounds, targets, pathways and discovering potential new therapeutic uses.
The Thiruvananthapuram-based centre already has a natural products research platform that employs advanced technologies such as DNA fingerprinting, DNA barcoding, chemical fingerprinting and chemoinformatics to assay ayurvedic compounds and scientifically document the various plants used in traditional medicines.
"The global market for herbal drugs is growing at around 15 per cent per year. There is a huge demand worldwide for natural or nature-derived products because they are perceived to be more effective in the long-term, safer and cheaper than synthetic drugs," said its director M Radhakrishna Pillai.
The centre, which specialises in disease biology, is one of few institutes in India equipped for translational research, having three campuses - one focused on discovery, another on innovation and the third is Bio-Nest incubation facility to translate the research into applications and products.
An example of the institute's AID-focused research is the development and patenting of a herbal mouthwash to help reduce mouth infections, abscess and pain suffered by oral cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.
The liquid contains plant parts that are known in ayurveda individually and in combination to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which prompted researchers to test them for possible use on cancer patients. The clinical study was carried out in collaboration with the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
Its research teams are also conducting a clinical study to evaluate if Amalaki Rasayana (an ayurvedic remedy with Amla or Indian gooseberry as a main constituent) can help in the prevention and management of cardiac failure. Scientists are also looking to identify potential antiviral molecules from plant sources to combat chikungunya and dengue, he said.
The AID programme was showcased at RGCB's pavilion at the 6th World Ayurveda Congress held in New Delhi. The institute also hosted a conclave of scientists and researchers from around India with AID as the main theme.