Although saponins were found to be the primary antinutrient and flavour factors associated with quinoa, they also have some interesting biological properties: they can (i) increase the permeability of the small intestinal mucosal cells, facilitating the uptake of materials to which the gut would normally be impermeable such as drugs ( Oakenfull and Sidhu, 1990; Gee et al. , 1993 ); (ii) exert antifungal activity due to its capacity to associate with steroids of fungal membranes, causing damage to its integrity and pore formation ( Armah et al. , 1999 ); and (iii) lower blood cholesterol levels ( Oakenfull and Sidhu, 1990 ). Saponins also have immense industrial importance and are used in the preparation of soaps, detergents, shampoos, beer, fire extinguishers and in the photography, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries (Johnson et al. , 1993). Moreover, saponins are being studied for their insecticidal, antibiotic and fungicidal properties and are seemingly free from significant oral toxicity in humans ( Dini et al. , 2001 ).
Saponins from the Gypsophila paniculata (baby’s breath) plant have been shown to significantly augment the cytotoxicity of immunotoxins and other targeted toxins directed against human cancer cells. The research groups of Professor Hendrik Fuchs ( Charité University, Berlin, Germany) and Dr David Flavell (Southampton General Hospital, United Kingdom) are working together toward the development of Gypsophila saponins for use in combination with immunotoxins or other targeted toxins for patients with leukaemia , lymphoma and other cancers .