New medicinal substances have been obtained from Arctic juniper
© RIA Novosti. Ruslan Krivobok

New medicinal substances have been obtained from Arctic juniper

Specialists from the Federal Research Center for the Comprehensive Study of the Arctic, the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Research Center) have developed a method for extracting new active pharmacological substances from junipers growing in the Arctic, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education press service reported.

"Using a combination of chemical and physical processes, we have developed innovative approaches to the comprehensive processing of renewable plant material. These methods can be used to extract biologically active substances for the pharmacological and perfumery industries. <…> (These methods have been used) on the wood of the Arctic juniper, and components that hold a lot of promise for pharmacology have been extracted from it," the message runs.

The researchers used supercritical technologies that make it possible to modify the wood matrix by changing its capillary-porous structure and applied "sequential disassembly" of the juniper wood matrix by placing it in a closed system under high temperature and pressure in the presence of chemical agents. This made it possible to precisely change the material's structure and properties.

As a result, the researchers were able to isolate components that cannot be extracted using conventional methods. For example, triterpene alcohol — sitosterol (0.8%) — can be used in the pharmacological industry, since it has regenerating and antioxidant properties. We also managed to obtain squalene, a hydrocarbon that is used to boost immunity and lower cholesterol, as well as in diagnosing and treating cancer and viral diseases.

The results of the plant cell wall morphological studies were also quite meaningful. As is known, there are no resin passages in common juniper wood. The experiment helped researchers discover spherical resinous formations in cell cavities where extractive substances build up.

"Prior to using supercritical technology, we were not sure exactly where the resin was located in the juniper wood. We used a scanning electron microscope to take micrographs before and after wood processing, which showed that untreated wood contains areas of cell walls covered with drops or even a dense layer of resin," Anna Krasikova, a researcher at the Plant Biopolymer Chemistry Laboratory at the Institute of Environmental Problems of the North at the Research Center, said.