The discovery of Salvestrols evolved from the work of research scientist Professor Dan Burke. As a faculty member of Aberdeen University Medical School for nearly 20 years, he specialised in the Cytochrome P450 enzyme system. His research group discovered that an enzyme CYP1B1 was present in diseased cells but absent from healthy tissue.
Burke went on to become head of the School of Pharmacy at De Montfort University, Leicester. At De Montfort, he met Professor Gerry Potter, who was Director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Group. When Professor Burke described the CYP enzyme to him, Potter immediately saw the potential of this enzyme in developing therapies for diseased cells.
Initially the pair worked on developing synthetic pharmaceutical products to combat disease. But in 2002 they discovered similarly structured compounds were naturally present in many foods. Professor Potter called this new class of natural compounds Salvestrols.
The best way to picture Salvestrols is to understand their role in the plants that produce them. When attacked by pathogens, primarily fungi plants defend themselves with Salvestrols. Where pathogens contain a CYP enzyme, Salvestrols are metabolised by the enzymes and die.
The CYP1B1 enzyme in diseased cells offers the potential to use the plants’ response and make it part of our own defence. Consuming Salvestrol-rich plants lets Salvestrols enter our diseased cells and induce their death through metabolism by CYP1B1.
Seeing a leaflet for local Leicester Company, The Herbal Apothecary, led to a meeting between Professor Potter and Managing Director, Anthony Daniels.
The company’s contacts in the global food industry, the herbalist community and organic growers proved enormously important for Professor Potter’s work. Working together, they analysed thousands of fruit, vegetable and herb samples.
It emerged that Salvestrols were present in small amounts or not at all in supermarket produce, while organic samples had Salvestrols in abundance. Meaning the typical western food supply is desperately deficient in Salvestrols.