The work described in this thesis was stimulated by the observations of several Indian workers who had endeavoured to show a link between the ingestion of products of the poppy Argemone mexicana, Linn. and the development of a variety of debilitating diseases, notably the eye condition Glaucoma, although other complaints, mainly cardiac and circulatory were also noted. The role of sanguinarine as an environmental carcinogen was also suggested. Chapter 1 of this thesis comprises a summary of the occurrence, biosynthesis, and in-vitro synthesis of benzo(c)phenanthridine alkaloids in general and sanguinarine, 2,3,7,8- dimethylenedioxy-5-methyl-benzo(c)phenanthridine, in particular. Chapter 2 attempts to summarise the pharmacological and toxicological properties of sanguinarine and of the papaver Argemone mexicana, Linn. in the context of the aetiology of the eye disease glaucoma. A quantitative analytical technique for detecting sanguinarine in physiological quantities is described and examination of material from clinical cases of Argemone poisoning is reported. Chapter 3 discusses the possible role of sanguinarine or a metabolite as an environmental carcinogen. The results of feeding experiments and of the examination of tissue samples are reported. Chapter 4 describes some synthetic studies undertaken to explore routes to specifically radio-labelled sanguinarine derivatives for use in the investigation of the postulated in-vivo rearrangement of sanguinarine.
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