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The Discovery of Artemisinin and Advances in Related Research

LU Yi-qin (Faculty of Biochemistry,College of Biological Sciences and Technology,Xiangya School of Medicine,Central South University,Changsha 410013,Hunan,China)  
5·23 Beijing Antimalarial Project was conducted in 1967.In collaboration with several domestic research institutes,more than 200 staff members of phytochemistry and pharmcology specialities etc.,were organized to search after the new drugs for anti-chloroquine resistant subtertian malaria.The ancient Chinese anti-malarial prescriptions were collected and reviewed.Exceeding 380 extracts were prepared from approxi-mately 200 items of herbs,their therapeutic effects were detected by the models of mouse malaria.The No.191 neutral extract obtained by ether extraction of Artemisia annua L.at 60 ℃ exhibited distinct curative ef-fects in mice and monkeys infected with malarial parasites as well as in 21 patients with subtertian and ter-tian malaria.In November of 1972,a colorless crystlline substance with relative molecular mass of 0.282 kD was isolated from No.191 extract,it was named artemisinin and identified to be a new type of sesquiterpene lactone.Since then,the capsulized pure artemisinins were used in treatment on a large scale.2006 after-wards,WHO announced an artemisinin combination therapy(ACT),with the aim at conquering artemisinin tolerance.ACT has saved more than one million of lives in 80 countries.Owing to her crucial role playing in discovery of artemisinin,Youyou Tu was conferred a 2011 annual Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award.The academic disputes in the discovery of artemisinin,how to properly evaluate the contribution of other sci-entists,and the recent exploration of its new sources except plant kingdom are briefly reported.
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