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Purdue University has found that oregano and thyme could treat cancer. The Mediterranean herbs contain a compound that could limit tumor growth. Purdue University partnered with Michigan State University and Martin Luther University to conduct this research.

The researchers titled the study The Biosynthesis of Thymol, Carvacrol, and Thymohydroquinone in Lamiaceae Proceeds via Cytochrome P450s and a Short Chain Dehydrogenase. They published it in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thymohydroquinone in herbs is in low concentrations 

According to a study author and biochemistry professor from the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, Natalia Dudareva, this compound is common in thyme and oregano though in low concentrations. For this reason, scientists need to engineer these herbs to obtain higher concentrations genetically. Alternatively, they could try and produce them in microorganisms.

Scientists agree that oregano and thyme have many benefits. These herbs contain compounds like thymohydroquinone, carvacrol, and thymol. The compounds give the plants their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Moreover, thymohydroquinone has anti-cancer properties.

This study comes at a crucial time because cancer has become the second most common cause of death in the U.S. If scientists find a way to produce large quantities of the compound, it can help reduce mortality.

The scientists detail the molecular structure of thymohydroquinone. They also detailed how the plant produced its precursors, carvacrol and thymol. Dudareva states that this study shows how little scientists know about the biosynthetic pathways in plants. Furthermore, it differs from knowledge on how aromatic monoterpenes form.

The researchers attempted to produce the compound in their labs

When the researchers discovered the biosynthetic pathway for the compound, they tried to produce it in the lab. They hope to make it in large quantities to incorporate it into cancer drugs.

The team used various methods of RNA sequencing and identified the molecular map via biochemical testing and metabolite profiling. Duradeva adds that the RNA sequencing allowed them to find novel pathways through gene expression analysis.

Another study author, Pan Liao, states their experiment gives scientists another plant to engineer genetically. He points out that herbs have various uses. Not only do we use them as cosmetics, perfumes, and spices, but also as medicines.