Scientists Brewing Cancer Fighting Compounds from Beer Hops

Amy Jacob

Enjoying a cold brew during post-work happy hour is always a treat, but next time opt for an IPA.

Enjoying a cold brew during post-work happy hour is always a treat, but next time opt for an IPA.

IPA, India pale ale, is among the hoppiest of beers.

In recent years beer has been touted for its health benefits — like increasing good cholesterol – but it’s the beer hops, the flowers of hops plants used to balance beer flavor by adding bitterness to the sweet maltiness, which may contain medicinal qualities.

Hops contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, which could halt the growth of diseases.

The important hops compounds are humulones, which are alpha acids that have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and lupulones, which are beta acids that have similar biological effects.

Before turning the compounds into effective pharmaceuticals, the scientists are working on channeling those anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of beer hops and compare them to analytical standards before ultimately develop synthetic hops compounds in the lab.

Kristopher Waynant, PhD, and Lucas Sass, undergraduate student, University of Idaho, have been developing multi-step processes to synthesize three types of humulones.

According to Sass, “it’s been a lot of trial and error. But it’s so exciting when an approach finally works.”

Waynant will present their findings at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego, CA.

Waynant remarked in a news release, “When researchers extract healthful chemicals from hops, they first have to determine whether they have separated out the specific compounds they’re interested in. But if you can figure out how to make these compounds from scratch, you know they are the right ones.”