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Articles from Science for Environment Policy

08.02.2013
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Articles from Science for Environment Policy

Biodiversity, Agriculture and Health

Nature provides treasure trove of medical inspiration
A recent analysis highlights the potential of natural products as an indispensable source for drug discovery. Natural compounds can be used directly as potential medicines or can provide templates for the design of synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs. Furthermore, because of their ability to interact selectively with biological macromolecules, they also provide a tool to better understand biochemical processes and thus identify new potential targets for the treatment of human diseases.
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From sweeteners to cancer treatments: nature points to new products
Throughout history people have turned to nature for relief from illnesses and this remains true today. With new technologies, researchers have an even greater ability to identify natural products that may lead to treatment or prevention of a wide range of health problems.
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Species extinction is a disaster for human health
A species faced with extinction is more than a potential tragedy for the species concerned. Human wellbeing and economy depend on the world's biodiversity and ecosystem services, but human actions are damaging the environment and threatening the existence of countless organisms that have, or could provide, humankind with valuable medicines, according to a recent publication.
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What is the medical value of marine biodiversity?
Undiscovered cancer treatments from marine organisms could be worth between US$563 billion (EUR428.5 billion) and US$5.69 trillion (EUR4.33 trillion), according to a recent study. The researchers estimate that there may be as many as 594,232 novel compounds waiting to be discovered in unstudied marine species, and that these could lead to between 55 and 214 new anti-cancer drugs. The study only accounted for anti-cancer drug revenues. In reality, these chemicals from the sea can have numerous other biomedical applications including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory uses.
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Link between biodiversity and human disease
Preserving biodiversity seems to reduce the emergence and spread of human diseases in many cases, according to an investigation into the links between biodiversity and human health. It concludes that there is mounting evidence indicating that preserving ecosystems in their natural state generally decreases the occurrence of infectious diseases.
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Changes in biodiversity can increase risk of infectious human disease
It is increasingly evident that human health is closely linked to the environment, and to biodiversity. A study commissioned by the European Commission summarises the many and varied ways in which disturbances to biodiversity affect the spread of human diseases.
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'Alternative agriculture': key to preserving food security and biodiversity?
The goals of providing sufficient quantities of food to support the world's growing population, whilst simultaneously protecting its biodiversity, may seem incompatible. However, a recent review of the literature has highlighted how 'alternative' agricultural practices can offer a realistic solution to the problems of achieving both food security and biodiversity conservation.
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Pollinator-dependence an underestimated risk?
Researchers have found that crops which rely heavily on pollinators have lower yields compared to less pollinator-dependent crops. They also have slower growth in yields and less stable yields from year to year. The results highlight the importance of managing biodiversity to support ecosystem services, such as pollination, on which much modern agriculture depends.
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