ARCHIVED - Unlocking secrets of natural health products

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October 01, 2008— Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

NRC scientists in Charlottetown are helping a Québec City-based company unlock the secrets of a botanical health product so it can expand some day into new veterinary and human health markets.

The company, Biotanika Health Inc., recently launched a line of pain management products for humans, including one to help relieve muscular and joint pain associated with arthritis, osteoarthritis and lower back pain. "Dolorox is based on five botanical ingredients," says Dr. Guy Chamberland, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Product Development. "For some reason, when you put these ingredients together, you end up with something that is even more potent than the full dose of any of the single herbs. And in terms of safety, the multi-herb approach offers a lower exposure to any single ingredient."

Biotanika has enlisted the support of researchers at the NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health (NRC-INH) to "tease out the underlying mode of activity of the different ingredients and also to learn more about any potential safety issues associated with this mixture," says Dr. Chamberland.

herb plants

"The only way we can improve this product is to better understand how it works," he adds. "As a company, we don't have the structure or the resources to do this type of research. NRC-INH is a perfect partner because their scientists have good expertise in this field of research and an interest in working on natural health products."

Biotanika's first priority is to test the ability of Dolorox to reduce pain and inflammation in dogs and cats. "Developing products that are safe for cats is a big challenge because they're very sensitive," says Dr. Chamberland. "You have to be careful about the levels of exposure to certain compounds."

"In this study, we're looking at basic safety and mechanisms of delivery, and also laying the groundwork for further studies on the efficacy and potential mechanisms of action of Biotanika's proprietary formulation," says Dr. James Johnston, an NRC-INH researcher. The goal is to identify which herbal combinations produce the best anti-inflammatory response in order to optimize the Biotanika formula in preparation for a clinical trial in animals. For part of its research, Biotanika has garnered support from the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program, which helps Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises in their technology and R&D projects.

"Biotanika's data suggests that their formulation may help joint cells recuperate from damage that occurs during inflammation," notes Dr. Marianna Kulka, a researcher at NRC-INH who specializes in immunity. "Using an in vitro model of joint inflammation, we'll test their compound to evaluate how this product works and what it does to stabilize cartilage cells. Cartilage has little capacity for regeneration, and damage to cartilage can lead to arthritis." The data could ultimately be used to develop new nutraceutical products.

"We're looking at a minimum of two years of full time research on Dolorox, but we also have other products in the pipeline," says Dr. Chamberland. "If this relationship goes as well as everyone thinks it will, I think we'll be a long-term partner of NRC-INH."

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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