Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel are focusing on allicin, a pungent compound that is nature's way of protecting garlic from insects, fungi and bacteria in the soil, the Arizona Central newspaper reports this week.
Weizmann Institute biochemist David Mirelman is leading a team that has cloned the gene for allicin, synthesised it and stabilised the highly volatile molecule in garlic.
The strong odour associated with crushed garlic is the result of the chemical reaction that creates allicin by combining the substrate, allin, with an enzyme called allinase., the paper continues.
Tests conducted by Mirelman show that allicin is also highly effective at preventing high blood pressure, treating diabetes, curing diarrhoea, lowering the risk of heart attacks and killing cancer cells.
In laboratory tests on rats, they also found that garlic prevents weight gain and might even lead to weight loss.
"Aspirin is not an antibiotic but it helps to prevent strokes, headaches, pain and so on...Allicin has a proven effect on micro-organisms so it's an antibiotic; it kills micro-organisms,"said Mirelman.
Mirelman's work at synthesising allicin could enable the production of medications based on allicin, the paper continues.
But apparently Mirelman has found little interest in conducting the costly research and human tests by pharmaceutical companies because allicin is in the public domain, which means no company can recoup its investment with an exclusive drug.