The ILIAD project is making it easier for researchers, and everyday people, to potentially make life saving medical discoveries without leaving home. The result could change the landscape of research into alternative sources for antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.
Medical researchers have traveled to the rain forests, the Serengeti and other out-of-the-way places to look for new insects and plants that may yield the next medical breakthrough. Now, through a co-funded project, tomorrow’s medical advancement could possibly be found during a stroll in the backyard today.
Who can tell who will be the one to discover an original source of medicine in their own backyard. How about an anti-cancer drug growing somewhere between the rose bush and the garbage can out behind the garage. Scientists have been finding new medicines in the rain forest, desert and other strange places. Now, some are turning their attention to the site of family gatherings — the square footage right outside of the back door.
The ILIAD (International Laboratory for Identification of Antibacterial Drugs) Project is providing interested persons with three-step kits which allow individuals to test for antibiotics at the kitchen sink. Aiming to spread awareness about the issue of antibiotic resistance, ILIAD puts modern day science in the backyard. Anyone who has ever dreamed of being a medical researcher now has the chance to be on the leading edge — and have a fun and educational experience as well.
Using customized kits, someone with an interest in medical research can experiment with organisms including bacteria, plants and insects. With over 370,000 known types of plants and almost a million species of insects, ILIAD is helping people to explore areas of the planet which may have been overlooked until now. Scientists estimate that the, as yet, unknown number of species may go into the millions. Who knows what else, besides a new antibiotic, maybe found.
In many plant species, scientists have found fungi living within the plant. This “friendly fungi” is named fungal endophyte. Fungal endophyte make chemicals that protect the plant against predators. Some of the chemicals produced by the fungi have been found to be beneficial in medicine. Breakthroughs in antimicrobial, antimalarial and anticancer treatments have been found using these fungi as a base. The ILIAD Project makes it easier to potentially uncover fungal endophytes as the field has been an under-financed area of mycology.
A walk through the woods — or just the backyard — could reveal hidden medicinal properties needed in the world. Through the project, everyone has the ability to potentially help with medical advancements.
By Jerry Nelson