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The National Research Centre (NRC) in Cairo, Egypt, has signed a deal with a local pharmaceutical company to start producing a diabetes drug from the fruit bitter gourd (Momordica charantia), reports SciDev.Net.
The lead researcher, Souad El Gengaihi, professor of medicinal and aromatic plants at the NRC, told SciDev.Net that bitter gourd, alternatively known as balsam pear, was already used traditionally in Asian medicine.
The plant traditionally grows in hot, sandy areas, which makes it ideal for Middle Eastern countries.
The researchers at NRC are hopeful they can extract the active constituent in balsam pear and use it as an oral alternative to insulin shots. Insulin is normally digested in the stomach, which is why it must be given as injections. However, Moushira Abd Al Salam, a researcher in the NRC’s Medical Research Division, contends that the active constituent in balsam pear has a special coating which protects it from digestion by stomach enzymes.
The research remains, so far, unpublished. While there are many websites selling alternative medicine products based on balsam pear extracts, science research consensus has so far not proven that the fruit can be used in treatment of diabetes.