In the past 3 months, I have been working diligently under my mentor, Dr. Jaimelee Rizzo, to investigate various ways to synthesize natural antimicrobial surfaces that provide protection from UV rays. Antimicrobial surfaces have the potential to prevent the growth of microorganisms, i.e. bacteria. The recipe for my surfaces is a combination of exotic butters, natural plant-based oils, and powdered supplements. In my experiments, the fixed dependent variable is ucuuba butter, aloe vera butter, and tamanu butter and the independent variables are the different plant-based oils and powdered supplements-which are infused to enhance the properties of the butter. Naturally, the butters have known restorative properties that aboriginal civilizations used for centuries to help with varying dermatological conditions; by infusing different oils and powdered supplements, we can fortify these butters to have increased wellness abilities. The antidotal effect of our starting materials is attributed to fatty acids naturally produced in their respective flowering plants. Various studies suggest essential fatty acids and their metabolites are effective in reducing the epidermal burdens caused by microbes. Common small chain fatty acids found in the starting material are trimyristin, lactins, salicylic acid, glycerols, and glycolipids- these are known to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Inherently these biological constituents are the first line defense in warding off infections in the body.
Using all-natural ingredients is favorable in this project because the skincare industry is straying away from the use of chemical products. In general, natural skin products are earth-friendly, biodegradable, reduce any uncomfortable chemical irritation, nutrient-rich with natural fatty acids, and can prevent adverse chemical imbalances throughout the body. In concluding this project, it is anticipated that we will be able to provide a naturopathic remedy for sterile wound healing while working to prevent sun-induced cancer.The formulation of antimicrobial surfaces can be divided into two protocols: the first is to generate and test the antimicrobial surfaces followed by demonstrating ample resistance towards UV radiation.
To being, individual butters are liquefied through via a hot water bath. About 4 mL of each sample butter is aliquoted into separate beakers followed by the addition of 2 mL of an essential oil is infused, and no more than 1 gram of powdered supplement. The mixture is then plated in a petri dish and left to solidify at room temperature. These samples are then transported to a partner university, LIU Post, to be tested for bacterial resistance.
Using a tryptic soy agar plate, 0.8 cm plugs of agar were removed. 175 µL of each surface was liquefied and placed in different agar holes, which were left to solidify again. 100 µL of 106 S. aureus was spread on the agar using a sterile spreader and each plate was left to incubate overnight at 37 °C. Antimicrobial activity was assessed the next day based on the diameter with which bacteria did not grow around the antimicrobial surface- this area is considered the zone of clearance, where a diameter greater than 1 cm is classified as antimicrobial.
In a transparent ziplock bag filled with UV detecting color beads, each antimicrobial surface is applied evenly over the bag- in a manner similar to the application of sunscreen. UV radiation is then induced over each ziplock bag for about 20 seconds. Samples were then ranked on a 1-10 scale based on the drastic color change in relation to a blank sample of individual butters and a comparative sunscreen.
So far, 14 different essential oils were incorporated in each of the three butters. Overall, 94 different samples were concocted, and about 45 different samples provided ample microbial resistance when tested against S. aureus. When tested for UV protection, about 40 samples demonstrated some degree of UV protection. About 35 samples were able to demonstrate both UV protection and antimicrobial resistance. The materials most commonly combined to get desirable results incorporate black cumin oil, marine powder, and ginseng powder. The most favorable results recorded to date are samples RP 65-69, 73-77, 83-85. Specifically, RP 65 had the widest margin to inhibit bacterial growth at greater than 4 cm and no UV light penetration- this sample was made with a mixture of 3.85 mL of ucuuba butter, 3 mL of black cumin oil, and 0.2 grams of marine powder. Looking forward to the continuation of this project I hope to discover more combinations that offer a zone of clearance greater than 4 cm while advancing this study to test our samples on live living cells.
As I am to graduate in spring 2019, weighing my options for a career is a pressing matter. Having spent time in Dr. Rizzo’s lab studying a cosmetic chemistry based project, this seems like a potential field of work. Understanding that the hardest part of research is failure and that patience in making samples work is the only drawback; striving to help out others is the reward and motivating force. Having Dr. Rizzo as a mentor is really beneficial because she gives me enough space to explore my research personally in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but she is opened enough where she welcomes questions to further my understanding of what is happening in the lab.