Plants and invertebrates in Latin America have contributed to a great extent in the use, discovery and development of novel neuroactive tools. Significantly, these neuroactive drugs have proven to be particularly important for our current understanding of the physiology and pharmacology of the nervous system. In addition, these discoveries have helped to build the modern and successful pharmacological business that we know today. For example, curare helped to introduce the use of muscle relaxing agents into modern surgical techniques. The discovery of cocaine from the leaves of Peruvian coca plants was instrumental in the discovery of local anesthetics. The search and discovery for useful neuroactive compounds derived from Latin America has also been ongoing in other areas and new applications for quinine, capsaicin and epibatidine were recently described. Besides these organic compounds, several peptides produced by spiders and other invertebrates to hunt their prey also induce effects in channels and membrane receptors at very low concentrations, indicating their high potency and selectivity. It is likely that new pharmaceutics will be developed from these molecules. The interest to renew the search for new compounds is timely, since largely unexplored lands, such as the Amazon and Patagonia, hold an important number of plants and animals that contain exciting new active compounds. With the introduction of new techniques to isolate, identify and characterize the molecular targets and actions of chemical entities, together with the need for more potent and selective compounds to treat neurological conditions, it is necessary to broaden the current exploratory effort in order to find more beneficial uses.
Keywords: Capsaicin, d-Tubocurarine, Cocaine, Epibatine, Batrachotoxin, Sodium channels, Calcium channels, Acetylcholine receptors, Neurotoxins
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport