Rare and exotic palms from the Fairchild Tropical GardenCenter in Miami, which were devastated by Hurricane Andrew,may offer the National Cancer Institute (NCI) a valuable sourceof drug compound possibilities

According to Michael Balick of the New York Botanical Garden,samples from 25 palms were shipped to cancer institutelaboratories on Friday. The Natural Products Branch of the NCIwill screen the palms for compounds to use against the AIDSvirus and 60 kinds of cancer.

Douglas Daley, also with the New York Botanicals Gardenswhich is under contract to the NIH in its tropical plant program,said that palm assays are in an early research stage andseveral varieties have yielded positive results on preliminaryscreens.

Traditionally, the palm has been the "ombudsman" of thetropics and according to John Aynsley of San Carlos, Calif-basedEscaGenetics has provided locals with a variety of medicinalderivatives. The beetle nut, for example, has been found usefulin controlling dysentery and internal parasites.

The NCI.is into its second five-year phase of a project calledPlants Collections and Taxonomy that is collecting tropical plantsamples worldwide to randomly screen for compounds fromplants, soil, fungi, and marine organisms.

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