Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Spruce HMR lignan may slow development of hormonal cancers: Health effects from bioactive substances in tree knots

Knot heartwood, i.e. the knot or branch section contained within the tree stem, has been found to contain considerably large amounts of phenolic protective agents. These bioactive substances contained in knot heartwood can be isolated and utilised e.g. in health foods and medicines or as special chemicals in other products. This year has seen the first tree knot extract product brought onto the market. Current interest is centred around HMR lignan, which has been isolated from spruce knot heartwood. Experimental research shows HMR to have a slowing effect on the development of e.g. hormonal cancers.

“Knot heartwood is easily utilised because it’s delivered along with the wood raw material to pulp and paper mills, where it can be separated out via a relatively simple process,” says Professor Bjarne Holmbom of Åbo Akademi University. Holmbom’s team at the Centre of Excellence in Process Chemistry has been researching components derived from wood and their properties as a part of the Wood Material Science and Engineering Research Programme of the Academy of Finland and Tekes, Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

The study, led by Holmbom, has analysed the knot heartwood of the main wood species in Finland as well as a number of foreign species. The first knot derivative product brought onto the market this year, HMR lignan isolated from spruce knot heartwood, will be marketed as a food additive. According to research carried out under the direction of Professor Risto Santti and Professor Sari Mäkelä at the University of Turku, HMR lignan slows down the development of hormonal cancers under test conditions. The substance may also have positive affects on cardiovascular diseases and other oestrogen dependent health problems such as menopause related conditions and osteoporosis.

“We don’t know whether this will be the next global brand after Benecol or Xylitol, but it has all the potential and there’s hope that it will,” says Holmbom.

Antioxidants in tree bark

Research by the Wood Material Science and Engineering Research Programme has, under Holmbom’s direction, also focused on derivatives of tree bark. Tree bark contains a variety of bioactive protective substances. For example, spruce bark contains large quantities of stilbenes which have numerous beneficial health effects.

“Research into natural sources of stilbenes has intensified in recent years. Studies are concentrated primarily on resveratrol, which has proven to be a strong antioxidant. It’s been shown to prevent the development of cancer and prolong cell lifespan,” Bjarne Holmbom says. Resveratrol is also found in the peel of black grapes and thus also in red wine.

Spruce bark contains small amounts of resveratrol but huge quantities, as much as ten percent of its own weight, of similar types of stilbenes. Holmbom’s team has analysed the components of spruce bark and isolated the most important stilbenes to undergo biotesting.

Towards natural chemistry

Professor Bjarne Holmbom believes that chemical production is currently entering a threshold of change. Today, demand is increasingly for more natural materials and chemicals in place of synthetic ones. In addition, the rising price of oil is threatening the petrochemistry industry.

“It’s now high time to develop new chemical production based on wood and other biomass-based natural materials in which renewable raw materials are produced using environmentally friendly processes and natural materials and natural chemical products. In other words, the chemicals industry must move gradually from “petro to bio”, i.e. from brown synthesis chemistry to green, natural chemistry,” Holmbom concludes.

Holmbom points out that the bulk of the world’s biomass is held in forests and the forest is the only really significant renewable organic raw material. “We now need to focus development on forest-based speciality materials and chemical production. Here in Finland we’re well positioned to be at the forefront of this development.”

Leena Vahakyla | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Algorithm could streamline harvesting of hand-picked crops
13.03.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht A global conflict: agricultural production vs. biodiversity
06.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>