Catmint Against Kidney Cancer
Englerin A is a natural product discovered in an African plant recently, with high toxicity for kidney cancer cells but low toxicity for other cells. This compound is potentially qualified for further evaluation toward an application in cancer therapy. Mathias Christmann, a professor of organic chemistry at TU Dortmund, have noticed that one ingredient of catmint has a structure similar to that of englerin A. Afterwards, he and his colleagues Dr. Matthieu Willot and graduate student Lea Radtke started a program to convert nepetalactone, the active substance of catmint, or Nepeta cataria, into englerin A. As a result, the molecular structure of the starting material - nepetalactone, is altered in the laboratory step-by-step, finally culminating in the target molecule (englerin A). The first successful total synthesis, meaning the synthetic production of englerin A on the basis of catmint oil, was completed in summer 2009.