Ever since civilization began, plants have been used to treat ailments and illnesses. One example is the willow bark, dating back to the time of Hippocrates in 400 BC, when the bark was chewed to reduce fever, headaches, and inflammation. The active compound in willow bark was found to be salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin. In the last century, pharmaceutical firms have isolated the structure of the medicinal plant’s active compounds as templates to create more potent and direct-acting drugs.
The objective of this project, led by Dr. Lundberg, is to bring this process to the laboratories of Gallaudet University to enlighten the students on what wonders plants have in store and to educate them on how the pharmacologically active substance is isolated, purified, and its chemical structure identified for drug discovery. Instruments used in this project include the high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
Students working with Dr. Lundberg will gain an appreciation of how plants can provide ideas and templates for the drug discovery industry. A brochure will be created for medicinal plants on Gallaudet University’s campus, to stimulate an interest and awareness of what nature has to offer to mankind to visitors of the University.
Image: Dr. Daniel Lundberg, John Cha (Chemistry major), and Sheena O'Donnell (Biology major/Chemistry minor) outside the Jordan Student Academic Center collecting a sample.