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How Sugar and Rat Poison Can Save Lives

Release Date: January 11, 2013

seet-medicine-news.jpgAs part of the Quest (http://ltu.edu/arts_sciences/quest.asp) program, Assistant Professor Shannon Timmons and her students attach sugars to complex molecules produced in nature to create new life-saving drugs to treat illnesses, such as cancer and bacterial infections. Using warfarin, a commonly prescribed anticoagulant also used as a rat poison, they employ organic synthesis and biological catalysts methods to add sugars to promising molecules.

One of sugars added to warfarin created a molecule 100 times more effective in killing cancer cells.

WHAT IS WARFARIN?

  • An anticoagulant (popular brand name: Coumadin)
  • Discovered by scientists researching why spoiled sweet clover hay caused cows to hemorrhage
  • Introduced in 1948 as a rodenticide
  • First used on humans in the 1950s

An early recipient was US President Dwight Eisenhower, who was given warfarin after having a heart attack in 1955