Gossypol - How cotton plants can keep you warm, well-fed, and childless

  • polyphenolic toxin ushered into existence by cotton plants (genus Gossypium)
    • Gossypium sounds funny for some reason (am I alone in thinking this? Must cut back on the late-night blogging)
  • inhibits aldose reductase, an enzyme involved in the polyol pathway by which glucose is converted to sorbitol in the human body
    • the elevation of blood glucose levels in diabetes can lead to the accumulation of sorbitol in cells, which may contribute to diabetic complications including neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy
    • therefore gossypol and other aldose reductase inhibitors could potentially be used to treat diabetic complications
  • has been and continues to be investigated as a possible male oral contraceptive, as it suppresses spermatogenesis (animation!) by some mysterious mechanism
    • lots of research was done in China during the 1970s
    • has not worked out since it has a low therapeutic index and causes things like hypokalemia (low blood potassium levels, results in fatigue and flaccid paralysis), GI upset, and permanent infertility (oops, we irreversibly damaged your testicles!) in some people
  • has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of tumour cells and the replication of HIV, making it a possible candidate for the development of new anticancer/antiviral drugs
  • some food scientists managed to figure out how to genetically engineer cotton plants so that their seeds, which are a friggin' phenomenal source of high-quality protein, contain only miniscule amounts of this toxin, thus rendering cotton plants a potential food crop!
- Kawanishi K, Ueda H, Moriyasu M. Aldose reductase inhibitors from the nature. Curr Med Chem. 2003 Aug;10(15):1353-74. Review.
- Waites GM, Wang C, Griffin PD. Gossypol: reasons for its failure to be accepted as a safe, reversible male antifertility drug. Int J Androl. 1998 Feb;21(1):8-12. Review.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossypol

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