Curing malaria with mustard oil

When she was in Grade 9, Jessie MacAlpine published her first research paper, titled &quot;The effects of CO<sub>2</sub> and chronic cold exposure on fecundity of female Drosophila melanogaster&quot; in the <em>Journal of Insect Physiology</em>.

Her research paper put MacAlpine on the science world map, and now she is working on an affordable and accessible cure for malaria.

MacAlpine presented her research at the Velocity Science Talks on June 24.

Now a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, MacAlpine is focused on creating a cost-affordable treatment for malaria in developing countries using mustard oil.

MacAlpine started working on her mustard oil treatment after she discovered that allyl isothiocyanate, an active ingredient in a herbicide compound she created in her basement during her high school years,&nbsp; is also found naturally in mustard oil. Allyl isothiocyanate is the chemical that gives mustard and wasabi its spicy taste.

MacAlpine decided to take her research beyond her basement lab and requested help from Western University in order to use their lab equipment, as malaria samples are not allowed outside of laboratories meeting certain bio-safety requirements.

After she treated the malaria-infected blood slides, the malaria virus didn&rsquo;t survive.&nbsp;

Following her discovery, MacAlpine tried getting in touch with pharmaceutical companies but was disappointed by their profit-making mentality, so she decided to patent the treatment herself.

&ldquo;I chose to patent for a variety of reasons. The first was to ensure the drug remained in my name so that a larger pharmaceutical company couldn&rsquo;t get hold of the information and claim the idea,&rdquo; MacAlpine said. &ldquo;The second was to make it easier to approach investors and potential laboratories to facilitate clinical trials, who are often more willing to take on a compound that has been patented.&rdquo;

The next move for MacAlpine&rsquo;s mustard oil treatment is to start mice trials on the malaria drug, which she hopes to begin by the end of summer. If the test is successful, MacAlpine hopes to start an observational study next summer in India.

Even though MacAlpine has already patented the drug, her future plans don&rsquo;t include making any money from it.

In an interview with&nbsp; the <em>Woodstock Sentinel-Review</em>, MacAlpine stated the significance of philanthropy both in her life and in scientific research.&nbsp;

&ldquo;My whole life I&rsquo;ve kind of aligned my morals with philanthropy, especially with something like malaria and global health,&rdquo; MacAlpine said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see any way I could justify charging individuals extra money for a compound that is already readily available and all they are lacking is the knowledge of its use and its potential.&rdquo;

During the conclusion of her talk, MacAlpine highlighted the significance of maintaining a moral approach to science research, especially when she&nbsp; said research produces solutions to preventable diseases such as malaria.