Beer compounds may help brew new medicines

Washington, Jan 30 (IANS) Researchers have unlocked the structure of humulones, acids that give beer its distinctive flavour, which could help design better drugs for diabetes, some cancers and other maladies.

"Now that we have the right results, what happens to the bitter hops in the beer-brewing process makes a lot more sense," said Werner Kaminsky, University of Washington research associate professor of chemistry, who led the study.

There is documentation that beer and its bittering acids, in moderation, have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation and perhaps even weight loss, the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition reports.

Kaminsky used a process called X-ray crystallography to figure out the exact structure of those acids, humulone molecules and some of their derivatives, produced from hops in the brewing process.

That structure is important to researchers looking for ways to incorporate those substances, and their health effects, into new pharmaceuticals.

Kaminsky cited thalidomide, which has a number of safe uses but was famously used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s before it was discovered to cause birth defects, according to a Washington statement.

Molecule "handedness" in one form of the drug was responsible for the birth defects, while the orientation of molecules in another form did not appear to have the negative effects.


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