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University research finds Ilocano dish ingredient may help fight cancer

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By Dhel Nazario

A seasonally-available seaweed locally known as “pukpuklo”, used in a favorite Ilokano dish, has recently been found to contain carbohydrates effective against cancer cells and destructive enzymes associated with cancer metastasis.

Researchers from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) headed by Dr. Ross Dizon Vasquez, evaluated the inhibitory potential of the polysaccharides fractions isolated from Codium species. They found that the seaweed fights destructive enzymes that aid metastasis or spread of cancer to different parts of the body.

Polysaccharides are carbohydrates such as starch, cellulose, or glycogen whose molecules consist of a number of sugar molecules bonded together. This kind of carbohydrates is used by the body in storing energy, sending cellular messages, or for providing support to cells and tissues.

Aside from its potential anticancer benefits, pukpuklo has also been evaluated for its effect on the skin. Dr. Vasquez said that it induced healthy skin growth and promoted faster healing of rat’s skin that was exposed to UVB radiations.

Their next target of study is possible cosmeceutical application or formulation of anti-aging compound from pukpuklo. Cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products with bioactive ingredients purported to have medical benefits.

The Codium species were collected in Ilocos Norte, Aklan, Iloilo, and Cagayan province. Pukpuklo, a favorite Ilokano dish, is known as a good source of dietary fiber, amino acids, and minerals.

However, little is known about its medicinal value and further studies have yet to be conducted to explore its use in the field of medicine.

The Codium research was among the six completed projects that were presented at the symposium on “The Values of Philippine Flora and Fauna”, organized by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP).

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