Artemisinin is a molecule crucial for treating malaria. Naturally produced in the plant Artemisia annua, this sesquiterpene lactone has broad therapeutic efficacy against a variety of parasites, viruses, and neoplasms with a diverse effect on the immune system. The molecule has a variety of therapeutic mechanisms, some still under debate. Here we describe the production and regulation of the molecule in A. annua and include a brief discussion of the in planta production of other important phytochemicals that may work synergistically with artemisinin to enhance therapeutic efficacy or bioavailability. This is followed by a discussion of the current state of knowledge in two important areas regarding the mechanism of action of artemisinins on Plasmodium sp. that cause malaria versus mechanisms that affect cancer cells and immune system responses. Last, artemisinins per se, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), and plant-based Artemisinin Combination Therapy (pACT) will be compared and critically assessed for their therapeutic efficacy in cell cultures, animals, and, where known, humans.
Weathers, P. J., Cambra, H. M., Desrosiers, M. R., Rassias, D., & Towler, M. J. (2017). Artemisinin the Nobel Molecule: From Plant to Patient. Studies in Natural Products Chemistry, 193–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-444-63931-8.00005-9
*denotes a WPI undergraduate student author