Within the Chinese medicine, more than 80% of the constituents of the preparations are derived from plants. Like any other organism, plants are constantly interacting with their changing and often harsh environment during the various phases of their life cycle.
Plant secondary metabolites provide a chemical protection against invading pathogens and predators to attract for example pollinators, and physical stress but may also act to give a typical smell or color. Plants can make several thousands of these secondary metabolites. This has resulted in a natural treasure house with highly diverse and often very potent compounds with a wide diversity of application in human health prevention and promotion.
Synergy is an aspect that will be lost in a target driven single lead discovery program with plant derived (Chinese) medicinal preparations. Synergistic activities have for example been reported for the antimicrobial activity of the alkaloid berberine that is 100 times enhanced by 5’methoxyhydnocarpin (5’MHC). 5’MHC is a compound found in the same plant as the alkaloid but it has no antimicrobial effect. Therefore, it is very important to discover and understand the synergistic and opposing active principles of (Chinese) herbal medicine and natural compounds by combining scientific technology and novel biological insights.
Within the Leiden University-European Center for Chinese Medicine and Natural Compounds (LUECCM), the systems pharmacology and synergistic effects of herbal medicine, Chinese medicine from botanic and social perspective will be studied.
As Chinese herbal medicinal preparations contain various different natural compounds, investigation on quality control is very important. A multi-dimensional chemical and pharmacological approach enables linking of the complex metabolic profiles of herbs with biological effects and is therefore a key for quality control of Chinese herbal material medica, while providing simultaneous scientific evidence for the underlying efficacy. Therefore, research in the LUECCM will also be aimed at investigation of therapeutic activity based quality control of herbal medicines.