Cancer, AIDS, malaria cures found in Borneo's forests: WWF
Source: Daily Express, 28/4/2006
Kota Kinabalu: Plants that could help cure diseases such as cancer, AIDS and malaria have been found in the forests of the heart of Borneo, according to a new WWF report.
But the global conservation organisation says this medical treasure-trove is threatened and called for its long-term protection.
The report revealed that scientists are currently testing samples collected in the Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in Kalimantan. They hope to develop drugs that could contribute to the treatment of major, deadly human diseases.
According to the report, an Australian pharmaceutical company has identified a promising anti-cancer substance in a shrub found in Sarawak. A compound present in the plant Aglaia leptantha has been found to effectively kill 20 kinds of human cancer cells in laboratory tests, including those that cause brain and breast cancer, and melanoma.
"The fact that the compound is very effective against a number of tumour cells, presents a very good argument for preserving the plant's habitat in Borneo," said Dr Murray Tait, Vice President of Drug Discovery at the company.
"More forest destruction could well deny science the opportunity to discover and develop further potential sources of life-saving medication." Scientists also found a unique chemical in latex produced by the Bintangor tree.
The compound, Calanolide A, that appears to be effective against the replication of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), as well as the tuberculosis bacterium, which affects many AIDS patients.
The discovery is particularly important as, to date, no single drug has been able to treat both HIV and TB. If clinically proven, Calanolide A could be a major development for the health of many millions worldwide.
The report further said that researchers found a powerful and previously unknown anti-malarial agent in the bark of a local tree, Lansium domesticum, traditionally used by the Kenyah people of Kalimantan to treat malaria.
The substance - a triterpenoid - apparently kills the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in laboratory tests.
According to WWF, at least 422 new plant species have been discovered in Borneo in the last 25 years, and many other species are waiting to be found and studied, some of which could hold potentially important medical properties.
However, the organisation warned that all these promising discoveries could be eventually lost if the disappearing rainforests in the heart of Borneo are not adequately protected.
"It takes a long time before a substance found in a plant can be developed as an efficient drug and used by doctors," said Dr Menno Schilthuizen, an associate professor with Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the author of the report.
"I believe hundreds of plants have been screened, dozens of compounds have been identified, but only a few of them are now clinically tested."
Today, only half of Borneo's forest cover remains, down from 75 per cent in the mid 1980s. But Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia have recently launched the Heart of Borneo initiative, which aims to preserve approximately 220,000 sq km of equatorial forests and numerous wildlife species.
"We hope that the Bornean governments will sign a tri-country Declaration for the Heart of Borneo very soon," said Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, Chief Executive Director of WWF-Malaysia.
"Such a declaration would ensure long-term protection to a region which might contain some of tomorrow's most significant medical discoveries," he said.
Friday, April 28, 2006
BORNEO BIODIVERSITY: KADAZANDUSUNS SHOULD PROFIT FROM IT
BORNEO RICH BIODIVERSITY:
KADAZANDUSUNS SHOULD PROFIT FROM IT
The Kadazandusuns are indigenous of Borneo. They couldn't traced their origins beyond the nunuk Ragang legend, i.e stating that the community is originated from a red fig tree, called "nunuk ragang" in Tompios, Ranau. It is indeed a fact that Sabah is the land of the Kadazandusuns, and they are the true sons of the soil.
Sabah is part of Borneo. Borneo is very rich in bio-diversity. It's million years-rainforest makes it very rich with millions of flora and fauna species. The kadazandusuns are living inside the jungle, in the midst of the rainforest. They live with the nature. Nature is part of and has been shaping their daily livelihoods.
Now, due to the advancement of society, many issues cropped up. Diseases etc are common concern. I brought here a news report carried by daily Express, dated 28/4/2006 quoting the WWF that there are cures of aids, cancer etc that could be found in the jungle of Borneo.
The question is: do the Kadazandusuns know about it? Can they share their knowledge? What are the Borneo jungle secrets known to the Kadazandusuns that have not been shared to the world? Whatever it is, The Kadazandusuns should profit from any research and development or bio-technology advancement on the bio-diversity of Borneo.
To Kadazandusuns, wake up. You're at the window of world opportunity. The world communities are counting on all of you. Look outside your windows, take a walk into your "kabun" and start identify the plants, insects etc. Who knows, there are some precious jewels among the flora and fauna. The Kadazandusuns should be the one benefitting from it, and let's not let others steal the rainforest knowledge from them. However, the Kadazandusuns should be proactive. They should keep the intellectual property rights (IPR) on the potentials of the herbs and fauna as they have the indigenous knowledge.