National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

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N C C A M Research Blog

NCCIH Research Blog

NCCIH blogs about research developments related to complementary health practices. Check in regularly to keep up with the latest findings.

John S. Williamson, Ph.D.
September 02, 2015
Portrait of John S. Williamson

Recently, Dr. Ruth Brack-Werner presented a seminar to the Natural Products Scientific Interest Group (SIG) at NIH. A scientist at the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Neuherberg, Germany, she is developing anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs and other antiviral drugs from natural sources. Dr. Brack-Werner and her team are especially interested in investigating natural products that are sold as herbal medicines or dietary supplements for two reasons: some have clinical and safety information available, and some are known to have activity against viruses.

Her group developed a screening method called EASY-HIT (for exploratory assay system for the discovery of HIV inhibitors) that uses a HeLa cell line—engineered to express the genes for two HIV proteins that represent different stages of the viral replication cycle—as well as a red fluorescent reporter gene. Substances can be screened for inhibitory activity against HIV and according to whether they inhibit early or late stages of the viral replication cycle. 

These researchers have screened more than 25,000 compounds so far with the method, and have also identified some novel anti-HIV agents—including a natural product that has high activity and new mode of action, an extract from the marine brown alga Lobophora variegata that inhibits HIV when it enters cells, and an extract from the South African medicinal plant Pelargonium sidoides that inhibits the attachment of HIV to cells. Dr. Brack-Werner’s laboratory has also focused on another medicinal plant that grows in the Mediterranean region that may have anti-HIV activity. Efforts are underway to isolate the most active fractions of this plant.

I’m intrigued by the research that Dr. Brack-Werner and her group are doing. Their research illustrates the great potential of natural products to help solve some of our toughest medical challenges.

August 17, 2015
Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.
Portrait of Dr. Edwards

Five new scientists bring a broad range of expertise to NCCIH’s Division of Extramural Research. Dr. Emmeline Edwards welcomes them in this blog post.

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August 11, 2015
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

In this blog post, NCCIH Director Dr. Josephine Briggs discusses new research findings that 11.2 percent of Americans experience chronic pain and 17.6 percent suffer from severe pain. NCCIH is leading efforts to find nondrug approaches for treating pain and related conditions.

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July 30, 2015
NCCIH Blog Team

In this video blog post, Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University explains how hypnosis can be used for medical purposes.

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July 22, 2015
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
NCCAM Director

NCCIH Director Dr. Josephine Briggs discusses the difference between correlation and causation, as illustrated by a recent study on chamomile, in this blog post.

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July 07, 2015
David Shurtleff, Ph.D.
David Shurtleff, Ph.D.

NCCIH’s blog team interviews Dr. Pieter Dorrestein on the use of big data for natural products research.

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