Sometimes, it’s the smallest step that can prove to be the biggest help during processes in nature. Dr. Matthew Siebert, assistant professor of chemistry, recently published an article investigating two pathways for one plant process in developing rotenone.
“Rotenone is an interesting chemical,” said Siebert. “It is used as pesticide, or insect killer, or piscicide, or fish killer.”
Rotenone is a fish neurotoxin that occurs in plants. Several reports detail individuals placing these plants in water to kill the fish and then skim them from the top of the water for easy fishing.
“It turns out if you ingest this compound, normally it doesn’t have any effect on your body and it is actually metabolized quite quickly,” noted Siebert. “However, if this compound gets into your blood stream, then it causes tremors.”
What may be one of the most interesting findings from the study was that of the two pathways examined, the one favored to produce rotenone used free radicals.
“As humans, we try to ingest antioxidant-rich foods to get rid of free radicals,” said Siebert. “But there are plenty of human processes that use free radicals, so it was interesting to see that mirrored in this plant.”
Pathway to Parkinson’s treatment
The use of rotenone as a pesticide or piscicide was outlawed due to harmful side effects seen in farmers and their families, including tremors similar to those found in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease. However, the molecule is now being used for Parkinson’s research to hopefully discover new treatment methods.
“Researchers can actually induce Parkinson’s-like tremors and administer medication to hopefully stop or reduce them,” stated Siebert.
Though it would be far in the future, continuing to study rotenone’s pathways could lead to advanced treatments for Parkinson’s patients as well as other diseases and conditions.