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The Banana’s Role in Beating Hepatitis C

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Find out about the new antiviral drug in development that comes from…bananas?
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Hepatitis C is one of many viruses that are vulnerable to a broad-spectrum antiviral drug currently in development. Designed to harness ‘the sugar code,’ this innovative drug hijacks certain virus’ communication systems. After years of investigation, an international team of researchers has developed a drug from a protein found in bananas that clings to sugar molecules on the Hepatitis C virus.

The potential application of such a drug is massive, especially because it also appears to target influenza, HIV and ebola.

The Banana

Rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and fiber, bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world. As bananas ripen, the starch they contain turns into sugars. Thus, riper bananas contain more sugar than green bananas. Although they can be high in natural sugars, bananas are considered safe for diabetics as long as they take the carbohydrate content into account in their meal and snack planning.

Based on their vitamin and mineral content, bananas can be beneficial for the following conditions:

  • Hypertension – Bananas’ high potassium content aids in vasodilation, which reduces blood pressure.
  • Muscle Cramps – Bananas’ magnesium content helps muscle cells relax, which can prevent muscle cramps.
  • Diarrhea Support – Electrolytes like potassium are lost in large quantities during bouts of diarrhea. The fiber in bananas helps astringe diarrhea and replenish potassium levels.

These health benefits make bananas a nutritious food, but do not make them an antiviral substance. Although killing viruses has never been a characteristic of bananas, drug researchers have nearly met this goal.

The Sugar Code

A concept in biochemistry, the sugar code is a high-density coding system that allows cells to communicate through surfaces. Scientists still don’t fully understand all that the sugar code controls, but believe it may be a powerful mechanism. Researchers have discovered that lectin molecules bind to sugar molecules covering the surface of many viruses. Because lectins attach to sugars, they can interrupt the cellular communication that allows viruses to enter cells.

Banana Lectin

BanLec is the name given to banana lectin, which was first discovered five years ago and was considered as a potential AIDS treatment. Unfortunately, it caused side effects so undesirable that cracking the sugar code with BanLec was derailed. However, scientists have recently created a new version of BanLec, which can fight viruses without irritation and inflammation side effects.

BanLec works by clinging to sugar molecules found on the surface of certain viruses. Once locked on, the virus is rendered harmless because it is prevented from getting into the cell. Upon being blocked, the virus can easily be disposed of by the body’s immune system. Animal studies show the new form of BanLec, called H84T, is capable of stopping the influenza virus without side effects. In addition, H84T worked in vitro against AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Bananas are tasty and nutritious, but experts warn that banana consumption does not have the same effect on influenza, HIV or Hepatitis C as the modified H84T BanLec does. Nonetheless, it is an exciting development that bananas could be the source of a broad-spectrum antiviral drug (that includes the Hepatitis C virus as a victim)!

Potential for BanLec

Much to the chagrin of those in need, there are several more years before BanLec can be tested in humans. We aren’t there yet, but there is much to celebrate. According to Dr. David Markovitz, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and co-author of the paper published in the journal Cell, “What we’ve done is exciting because there is potential for BanLec to develop into a broad spectrum antiviral agent – something that is not clinically available to physicians and patients right now.”

History has taught us that powerful medicines can be extracted from everyday food and fauna. Digitalis (a heart medicine) comes from the foxglove plant and hesperidin (a blood vessel strengthener) comes from citrus fruits. As of 2015, we can add bananas to the potential list of sources for a potent drug. Besides reducing blood pressure, preventing muscle cramps and aiding in diarrhea recovery, bananas could be the origin of an antiviral drug that immobilizes the Hepatitis C virus., Will Bananas Raise Blood Sugar?, Jessica Bruso, Retrieved November 15, 2015, Demand Media, 2015., Drug engineered from bananas shows promise in fighting deadly viruses, Kara Gavin, Retrieved November 15, 2015, University of Michigan Regents, 2015., Could bananas cure AIDS? New drug made from the fruit can kill viruses including hepatitis C and flu, Colin Fernandez, Retrieved November 15, 2015, Associated Newspapers, Ltd, 2015., Banana Molecule Fights HIV and Hepatitis C, Justine Alford, Retrieved November 15, 2015, IFL Science, 2015., Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks and Nutritional Facts, Retrieved November 15, 2015, MediLexicon International, Ltd, 2015., Banana “Wonder Drug”, Molly Mattox, Retrieved November 15, 2015, RU Whim, 2015.

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