Natural Products & Green Chemistry
Nepal covers an area of 141,181 sq. km. and geographically ranges from flat lowlands, lying below 100 meters in elevation, to the top of the world at 8,848 meters. Due to its geographic and climatic diversity, Nepal, which occupies just 0.1% of the world, contains over 2000 plant species known to be potentially useful, including about 1600-1900 species commonly used for medicinal purposes. Besides medicine, about 600 species of plants are estimated to be potential sources of food and food additives. These plants are an integral part of traditional eastern medicine and this traditional health care system based on Himalayan native plants has a long history.
Research projects related to Biodiversity and Natural Products are under progress in the department. The projects are related to the impacts of climate change on microbial biodiversity, forest biodiversity, and aquatic biodiversity. In addition, research projects related with ethno-botanical research, pharmacological research, drug discovery and natural products are also under progress in the department.
Investigation of antimicrobial, anticancer and antioxidant secondary novel metabolites from lichens and their endophytes from high altitude regions of Nepal.
International Foundation of Science (IFS), Sweden
Lichens are reported to produce various biologically active compounds. Lichens from extreme environments such as high altitudes, regions with high UV exposure, extremes of drought and cold are believed to synthesize unique types of secondary metabolites. Similarly, endophytic fungi or bacteria isolated from lichens from extreme environments are also believed to produce unique as well as novel secondary metabolites in terms of molecular structure and biological activity. Several human pathogenic bacteria and fungi have evolved into drug resistant strains. Various synthetic antioxidants have been found to show accelerated carcinogenic effects. These phenomena point out the need for further research to produce effective drugs.
The project aims to investigate lichens and their endophytic fungi/bacteria from the high altitude mountains of Nepal where such research is yet to be carried out. During this research project, various lichens species from Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) will be collected and endophytic fungi / bacteria will be isolated. All the organisms will be extracted with methanol and the extracts will be screened for various biological activities such as antibacterial (against human pathogenic bacteria), antifungal (against pathogenic fungi), antioxidant and anticancer properties. Biological activity guided fractionation of the active extract will be carried out by using various chromatographic techniques such as column chromatography (silica gel), size exclusion chromatography (sephadex LH-20), thin layer chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The purified active compounds will be identified by spectroscopic analysis such as Ultraviolet, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) experiments. The obtained results will pave the way to conduct further research for developing pharmaceutical or cosmetic drugs of natural origin to replace the existing synthetic compounds for better and safer applications.
Exploration of novel antibiotics, antioxidants and anticancer compounds from microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, lichens) collected from extreme environments of mountainous regions of Nepal.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany
Microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, lichen) are well known resources for various natural metabolites some of which are already dominant in pharmacological application such as penicillin. Several Streptomyces and Actinomyces species are reported to produce antibiotics, antifungal and anticancer metabolites. Similarly, lichens are potential sources of unique types of metabolites with various biological activities especially antioxidant, anticancer and antibiotics. The exploration of bioactive metabolites producing microorganisms from mountainous regions of Nepal is yet to be done systematically. Due to extreme environment and scientifically untouched geographic region, a number of novel micro-organisms with potential biological activities are believed to be explored during this research project. Micro-organisms will be isolated from soil, water, plants and rocks samples. Antibiotic activities will be evaluated for each isolated microorganism against various pathogenic clinical micro-organisms. Micro-organisms identification will be carried out by analyzing 16S rDNA sequence analysis. In addition, we will establish a cryopreservation based culture collection of such bioactive metabolites producing microorganisms so that other scientists can perform further research works in future. Biologically active natural compounds will be isolated and characterized from each biological activity showing micro-organisms. Various chromatography techniques such as thin layer chromatography (TLC), mild pressure liquid chromatography (MPLC), column chromatography, and High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) will be applied as per suitability and necessity to purify natural compounds from the crude extracts. The purified compounds will be structurally identified by analyzing spectroscopic data obtained from UV, IR, 1D and 2D NMR experiments. The quantitative analysis of biological activities (antibiotic, antioxidant, anticancer, antifungal, and anti-diabetic) of identified natural compounds will be conducted and compared with commercial standards by using standard protocols.
Guava (Psidium guajava Linn) leaves as natural preservatives for smallholders farmers of Nepal.
A large number of fruits and vegetables are transported from terai and mountain regions of Nepal to different parts of the country especially for farmers and local vendors. During the process, there is significant loss of food, around 8 – 33% which is very surprising and problematic for a developing country like Nepal whose major economy relies on agriculture. Due to lack of good refrigeration facilities, the agricultural produce in Nepal has been affected. Political strikes and instability in power supply are some of the major issues which exacerbate the problem. Food spoilage is prominent when these situations elongate and degrades the quality of food. Ultimately, it creates loss of nutritional value, texture and flavor of food. To minimize the situation, application of fungicides and chemical preservatives are common practice to preserve post harvested food in Nepal. This helps extend shelf life and maintain food quality. But due to greater consumer awareness towards the negative impact of chemicals there is increasing demand of natural preservatives as an alternative. Our concept is to formulate water based leaf extract of guava plants which possess antioxidant and antimicrobial properties making it a potential natural preservative to extend the shelf life of food. This will eventually help achieve the UN sustainable development goal of reducing poverty and minimize hunger problems.
Functional enhancement of abundantly available citrus fruits waste via green extraction and solid-state fermentation methods to utilize the obtained bioactive compounds as key ingredients in nutraceuticals, preservatives, and cosmeceuticals
Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), Italy
Food waste is an alarming global economic, environmental, and food security issue with 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year, 45% of which account for fruits and vegetables waste. Fruit and vegetable waste issue is more serious in Nepal due to poor food supply chain and waste management systems. The food waste is dumped into the landfills or water bodies which produce toxic greenhouse gases creating health hazards and economic loss. In Nepal citrus fruits share almost 37% of the total fruits production and 10-15% of them are wasted. Therefore, we propose to functionally enhance these citrus fruits waste by employing green extraction methods to extract phytochemicals and solid state fermentation to produce citric acid. Various therapeutic properties present in these phytochemicals can be used as key ingredients in functional foods, cosmeceuticals, and natural preservatives with multi-billion dollars market size. Therefore, our proposed project will employ innovative technological solutions to use citrus fruits waste as a sustainable and inexpensive source of high-value phytochemicals, to support economic growth while alleviating environmental and food security concerns.
Assessment of Mushroom Diversity in Forests around Kathmandu Valley through Molecular Characterization of Nuclear ITS region.
Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Nepal
The aim of this project is to perform molecular identification of mushroom specimens found in Kathmandu valley and establish an online database incorporating both morphological and genetic information. As such, the project aims to raise awareness towards mushroom diversity and the consequences of habitat loss resulting from human intrusions into forests areas of Kathmandu.