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The Heart Research Institute's Dr Xuyu Liu is researching how healthy heart diets that contain ‘natural products’ (naturally occurring chemicals) can give rise to new treatments for thrombosis, the common underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.

Historically, these natural products were difficult to study, but today’s drug discovery platforms are giving researchers new opportunities to exploit their potential.

Dr Liu’s talk at the recent 14th Australian Peptide Conference, Gold Coast, QLD explored how chemicals best known for their association with ‘cruciferous’ vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy etc), which contain naturally occurring isothiocyanates, could be used to develop new treatments for thrombosis (blood clot formation), stroke and diabetes.

Dr Liu’s team, the Cardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery Group, used activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) – an approach that maps the targets of active chemicals – to screen a “library” of isothiocyanates. They discovered some natural products in their library that had potent anti-thrombotic activity by diminishing platelet activity in thrombotic conditions. These natural products targeted thrombosis selectively, without affecting the body’s protective response to bleeding. This means they are potentially safer drug candidates, with fewer side effects, for anti-thrombotic treatment.

The talk was titled “Global mapping of the platelet targetome of naturally occurring isothiocyanates reveals potent and potentially safer targets for antithrombotic treatment”.

Reg­u­la­to­ry med­ical agen­cies have a very low risk tol­er­ance for antithrom­bot­ic ther­a­peu­tics, which means new med­ica­tions for stroke, heart infarc­tion and the oth­er throm­bot­ic com­pli­ca­tions are very dif­fi­cult to pass,” says Dr Liu.

“If we can harness naturally occurring ingredients, we can speed up this pathway of cardiovascular drug development, and provide more effective and safer candidates to supplement the huge consumer market of anti-thrombotic agents, that reached $35 billion in 2019.”

Header image: Dr Xuyu Liu (centre) and the Cardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery Group

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