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Taxol

Early questions regarding the prudence of destroying forests of environmentally protected yew trees in order to obtain taxol were soon made moot due to the discovery that a close chemical relative of the drug is present in the leaves of the more common European yew tree. Removing the leaves of this tree does not result in its death, as does the removal of the inner bark. Even greater advances in simply achieving adequate supplies of taxol have been made since this discovery. Most notably, a research team from Florida State University led by Dr. Robert Holton developed an economically feasible synthetic pathway for creating the drug. Also, taxol has recently been found in hazelnut trees and their nuts, as well as a type of fungus that grows on some yew tree species. The latter finding is particularly intriguing to those in the medical field because of the potential to grow taxol in fermentation tanks in a manner similar to that of penicillin production.


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