Christmas trees ‘could hold cure to killer flu’

Christmas trees could provide part of the answer to treating the killer bird flu virus, according to researchers at Bangor University, Wales.

Scientists at the university’s BC Centre, working on a Woodknowledge Wales (WKW) project, have discovered that Welsh grown Sitka spruce contains valuable pharmaceutical material.

According to a report on the News Wales website, pine needles that drop into the carpet and found months later contain traces of shikimic acid, described by experts as an essential ingredient in the world’s only weapon against bird flu.

And now the research points to a possible way to extract this valuable new source of the drug from forest waste materials.

“The work so far shows that material that at best is chipped and composted can provide an excellent source of expensive chemicals needed in today’s society,” said Dr Dennis Jones of WKW.

” If a viable market existed for more than 70 tonnes of Welsh spruce oil, the gross value would be more than £10 million, not including production costs.”

Bangor’s researchers have also discovered essential oils, resins, flavinoids – anti-oxidants which can help fight heart disease – and sugars with probiotic properties which could be used in health products.

“Biorefinery of green materials has been proposed as a way to add value to the Welsh forest,” said Graham Ormondroyd of the Biocomposites Centre.

“Certainly our initial research shows that it is possible.”

Twigs and needles were taken off Ffridd Mountain, part of Bangor University’s Henfaes Research Centre at Abergwyngregyn.

Steam and organic solvents were used to extract the oils and further research identified the different naturally occurring chemicals.

“This is a classic example of how BC focuses on the science of renewable plant materials technology, turning it into a clear, commercial advantages for partners and clients.

Source: News Wales website

Date: 19/12/2008

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