Innovative research by Robert Gordon University (RGU) suggests UK-grown daffodils could help prevent cardiovascular disorders, tapping into new medical treatments for heart failure.
The project, led by Robert Gordon University in partnership with pharmaceutical company Agroceutical Products with support from the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), explores the effects of natural compounds found in the flower’s stem, leaves and petals on cardiovascular disorders.
RGU academics led by Professor Cherry Wainwright are conducting the study with initial findings showing that specific compounds taken from daffodils could help prevent the thickening and stiffening of the heart’s walls.
Daffodil’s bulbs, which produce a high-value alkaloid called galanthamine, are already used in the UK to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The results from this project could unlock the benefits of using all parts of the plant and preventing them from going to waste.
In this study, three different alkaloids are being tested to understand their impact on contributors to heart failure – such as hypertrophy and fibrosis. Further study will provide the research team with data about the most effective compounds for preventing the conditions that lead to cardiovascular problems.
Data from the British Heart Foundation shows that more than half of the people in the UK will get a heart or circulatory condition in their lifetime, and around twice as many people are living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK than with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined.
Professor Cherry Wainwright, director at the Centre for Cardio-metabolic Research and co-director of the Centre for Natural Products in Health at Robert Gordon University, said: “I am proud that RGU is leading such paramount research. We have a strong research culture that encourages partnership and focuses on addressing global challenges and positively impacting communities.
“In their purest form, alkaloids can be toxic to humans and animals, but when isolated, purified, and prescribed correctly they can be used as an effective treatment for disease.
“We have already seen a positive effect on the heart cells being tested, with the alkaloids interrupting a sequence of events that could lead to the stiffening of heart tissues and result in heart failure. It’s encouraging, and we look forward to discovering the extent of daffodil’s potential as we take the concept to the next stage.”
Kevin Stephens, founder and director of Agroceutical Products, said: “Only a small proportion of daffodils grown across the world actually end up as decorative bunches of flowers, and we already have a well-established UK supply chain that is helping to treat Alzheimer’s. This study could lead to the development of additional medicines that could be transformational for patients suffering with heart conditions, with promising initial findings. It is also about valorising biomass that would otherwise go to waste and working closely with the farmers to maximise the output and the value of their crops.”
Liz Fletcher, director of business engagement at IBioIC, added: “If you have ever seen a field of daffodils in full bloom and wondered why they weren’t harvested at bud stage, it is most likely that the plants are being grown for use in the life sciences sector. While using natural compounds for medicinal purposes can offer huge economic potential for farmers in rural communities, it is also a great example of how naturally occurring products can feed into major industries and have a positive impact on people’s lives. We are excited to see how the research team take forward the findings from this collaborative initiative.”