Student-researchers bagged first prize at the Gruppo Medica Award for their research on the anti-dengue property of papaya (Carica papaya) and tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta) during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration in Cebu City on 12-14 August 2014.

Topping 21 research entries from all regions in the Philippines, the research done by Pharmacy students at the San Pedro College in Davao City revealed that tea concoction from tawa-tawa can increase blood platelet counts in rabbits by 194% in just 24 hours.

Results on tests done on tea concoctions from papaya leaves only and mixture of papaya leaves and tawa-tawa plant also significantly increased platelet counts in rabbits within 24 hours.

Further laboratory tests on papaya and tawa-tawa revealed that both plants contain quercetin, a plant pigment known to naturally increase the platelet counts.

Recommending the continuation of the research, especially with the isolation of quercetin, the students stressed that the study is significant in the effort to develop treatment for the management of dengue. They said, “This research can benefit the society because it will pave the way to the development of new drug that is affordable, accessible, and effective against dengue.”

The Gruppo Medica Award is conferred annually by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) to give recognition to undergraduate researches on the practical or commercial application of herbal plants for health.

Banana stalk may be the next alternative herbal remedy against kidney stones according to a study done on mice by Pharmacy students at the San Pedro College in Davao City.

Kidney stones or renal calculi are hard masses developed from the crystalized substances from the urine. Factors attributed to the formation of the kidney stones include low fluid intake, acidic urine, and high intake of foods rich in protein (meat and beans), salt (canned and processed foods), and oxalate (spinach, tea, nuts, and cocoa).

In the study, laboratory mice were drug-induced to develop kidney stones and were given banana stalks that were processed into capsules for 10 days.

Laboratory examinations showed that mice fed with banana capsules did not show signs of developing kidney stones. Blood and urine examination conducted on the mice revealed healthy functioning kidneys.

Researchers attributed to the high magnesium and potassium content of banana for its ability to prevent the formation of kidney stones. They explained that magnesium combines readily with the oxalates in the food we eat, inhibiting the growth of a type of kidney stone known as calcium oxalate crystals. Potassium on the other hand balances the acidity of the urine preventing increase in urine acidity and development of calcium oxalate crystals.

While treatments for kidney stones are available, the student researchers argued that prevention is still better. The cost of treatment for removal of kidney stones can be exorbitant and may be beyond the reach of the poor. The researchers expressed that the study will help with the development of affordable remedy against kidney stones.

The research, entitled, “The Anti-Urolithiatic Activity of the Tundan Saging (Musa paradisiaca Linn.) Pseudo-Stem Capsule in Ethylene Glycol-Induced Albino Rats (Rattus norvegicus): A Potential Preventng Agent for Kidney Stone Formation,” was recently awarded second prize at the Gruppo Medica award during the Philippine National Health Research System week Celebration in Cebu on August 12, 2014.

Malunggay (Moringa oleifera) can destroy colorectal cancer cells while remaining safe and non-toxic on healthy human cells, according to a study done by researchers at the De La Salle University (DLSU).

The ability of malunggay extract to destroy colorectal cancer cells was attributed to a bioactive compound called isothiocyanates. The compound has been reported to induce cell death in some human cancer cell lines.

With regards to safety, cell viability assay, a procedure used to test whether cells can withstand doses of medicinal compounds, found that malunggay extracts are not toxic to normal human cells. Further test comparing it with colchinine, a common anticancer drug, revealed that malunggay extract is less toxic than the drug.

Since drug toxicity is a major concern in cancer treatment, researchers said that malunggay’s safety is a promising find in the search for effective and safe drug against cancer.

Researchers noted that their study could provide the foundation for further investigation of malunggay’s potential for cancer treatment. They said, “This study will provide solid scientific basis for at least one of the most important medicinal benefits that could be attributed to the plant - its anticancer property.”

The study won the recently concluded Poster Exhibit Contest during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration in Cebu City on 12-14 August 2014.