Yale University Logo A specific compound found in a species of moss in China was seemingly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease since late 1990s. Now, Yale University researchers have apparently developed a technique to produce this enzyme inhibitor, namely huperzine A in the laboratory.

This compound is commercially available in the U.S. and used as a dietary supplement that helps in sustaining memory. Scientists believe that it could also aid in fighting the effects of chemical warfare agents without any side-effects. They have until now been able to extract only traces of the compound from the Huperzia serrata plant and supposedly had been undertaking lengthy avenues to generate it in labs.

Seth Herzon, the Yale chemist who led the research, remarked, “Being able to synthesize large amounts of huperzine A in the lab is crucial because the plant itself, which has been used in Chinese folk medicine for centuries, takes decades to grow and is nearing extinction due to overharvesting.”

Herzon and his research team claim to have created large proportions of the compound in the lab and have the know-how to produce much more. This new procedure comprises 8 steps and seems to show around 40 percent results, unlike the initial methods. The cost is touted to reduce only by 50 cents per milligram, say the scientists. They have also joined hands with an industrial firm to help manufacture it in large amounts.

This company will do extensive research to adjudge the therapeutic potent of huperzine A by various tests for neurological conditions in the U.S. Additionally, the Herzon lab and the firm are speculating with the U.S. Army, that is showing interest in huperzine A’s capacity to block the influence of chemical warfare agents. HHuperzine A tends to integrate better, appears to easily be taken in by the body and stays there for longer duration than other therapies used in the U.S., concludes Herzon.

The research is published in the August 25 issue of the journal Chemical Science.