Alkannins and Shikonins (A/S) are chiral-pairs of naturally occurring isohexenylnaphthazarins. They are found in the external layer of the roots of at least a hundred and fifty species that belong mainly to the genera Alkanna, Lithospermum, Echium, Onosma and Arnebia of the Boraginaceae family. Their occurrence in Jatropha glandulifera, a member of the Euphorbiaceae, should be considered as an exception. Pharmaceutical formulations with wound healing properties based on A/S have been in the market for many years. Although their wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antithrombotic and antitumor properties have been extensively documented, significant insight into their specific molecular pathways and mechanisms was hindered until recently. With the establishment of viable synthetic and biosynthetic routes of A/S and the synthesis of specific derivatives that were discovered the last few years, the effects of those compounds in the molecular-cell biology of human tissues in health and diseas have just started being explored in depth, revealing a new class of drugs that hold promise as the basis for many valuable therapeutic targets. In the recent years, a wealth of new information arising from research efforts, on the wound healing properties of A/S has been accumulated. In this paper we review the findings and advances on the molecular and biological properties of A/S that promote wound healing.
Keywords: Quinones, alkannin, shikonin, natural products, antibacterial activity, anti-inflammatory activity, wound healing, ulcers, leprosy, leprotic ulcer
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