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Knowledge At MET

Knowledge At MET


A species of Himalayan yew trees that is used to produce taxol, a chemotherapy drug used for the treatment of cancer is pushed towards the brink of extinction by overharvesting for medicinal use and over collection for fuel wood and fodder. The medicinal tree, Taxus contorta, found in Afghanistan, India and Nepal, has seen its conservation status change from "vulnerable" to "endangered" on the IUCN's annual "red list" of threatened species.

Taxol was discovered by a US National Cancer Institute program in the late 1960s, isolated in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia. All 11 species of yew have since been found to contain Taxol. "The harvesting of the bark kills the trees, but it is possible to extract Taxol from clippings, so harvesting, if properly controlled, can be less detrimental to the plants," said Craig Hilton Taylor, IUCN red list unit manager. The knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will, in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.

Biodiversity continues to decline and governments need to take action to achieve the goal of a 10year plan that was agreed on the international biodiversity summit in Japan last year. By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

Tanvi Kamat

S.Y.B. Pharm.

Tags: MET Institute of Pharmacy