College of Liberal Arts

- University of Mississippi

Medicinal Plants Topic for Oxford Science Café

AUGUST 12, 2014 | BY EDWIN SMITH

The August Science Cafe will take place on August 19.

The August Science Cafe will take place on August 19.

The use of medicinal plants in disease treatment is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Café is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at Lusa Pastry Café, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at UM, will discuss “Plants as Medicines: New Insights for Old Remedies.” Admission is free.

“Medicinal plants have been staples in most human societies for all of recorded civilization,” Walker said. “Plants and plant-derived preparations shaped the medical pharmacopeias of Indian, Chinese, Arabic, native Americans and many other ancient cultures.”

Walker’s 30-minute presentation will review how 19th and 20th century experimental pharmacology has evolved in the 21st century.

“Pharmacology was largely based on observations of the effects, often toxicity, of plant-derived alkaloids,” he said. “Our constructs of the sympathetic nervous system, neuromuscular transmission, pain pathways and cardiac contractile mechanisms, among many others, were developed in this way. In the post-genome era, a number of exciting developments, new therapeutics are being developed based on plant-derived products.

“Understanding these elegant and complex pathways and their modulation by natural products holds rich promise for the future.”

Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from Oglethorpe University, a degree in pharmacy from Mercer University and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University. His other UM appointments include research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and professor of pharmacology. He is also associate director for basic sciences at the Oxford campus of the UM Medical Center Cancer Institute.

Walker’s research interests include renal and cardiovascular pharmacology, drug discovery techniques for natural products and evaluation of the safety and efficacy of medicinal plants.