Inflammation is the human bodies natural response mechanism to relieve damage to a living tissue. There are four main groups of tissues including muscle, epithelial, connective and nervous tissue; with functions ranging from helping us perform daily functions like walking, to more complex functions like allowing signals to reach the brain. In order to relieve any stress that a soft tissue injury or break may endower, an inflammatory response proceeds as a defense mechanism. Through this defense mechanism, the ultimate goal is to confine and remove the opposing agent so that the healing process may occur. To do this blood flow may change as well as the permeability of the blood vessels and the movement of fluid, proteins and white blood cells to the location of the injury. Although a human body with a strong immune system will begin this process almost immediately, there are chemical factors that stimulate the changes outlined previously; including macrophages. Inflammation mediators, like endotoxin or lipopolysaccharide, are microscopic molecules which could be found inside or outside of the body. These molecules coat the outside cellular membrane of certain bacteria and interact with immune cells, causing an increase in inflammation.
Previous Studies show that fatty acids mediate these interactions, reducing inflammation, as well as act as an antimicrobial resistors. Such fatty acids include, oleic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid. Past chemical researchers hinting the ability of these acids to compete as a natural approach to resist bacteria as well as improve the inflammation/healing process led us to our proposed experiment in testing against the gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus was chosen because of its pathogenic property, ultimately causing an infection to turn into a disease. This bacterium typically causes skin infections and is at a higher risk to individuals including: neonates, breastfeeding mothers, injection drug users, patients with transplants or open wounds, and patients with chronic bronchopulmonary disorders.1 Through model organisms, research also shows that alpha-linolenic acid obstructs ultraviolet radiation, impeding the expression of cancers.UV rays contain more energy than visible light but less energy than x-rays. As the energy increases within the UV portion, it increases its ability to ionize, remove an electron, from an atom or molecule turning it into ionization energy.3 This ionization energy can then produce mutations in our DNA which can lead to health complication, one of which was noted above. In order to decrease the chances of UV rays to penetrate our skin, different inorganic and organic substances may be applied as a topical treatment. Inorganic compounds works as a sunblock in which they reflect UV light, while organic compounds absorb the UV light into the molecules themselves, instead of passing through the skin. In the case of our experiment, organic compounds were used as natural sunblock approaches.
In total, 4 different exotic butters and 21 different essential oils were used in the creation of 54 sample plates that were tested for their antimicrobial strength against S. aureus as well as their ability to decrease penetration of UV radiation through the skin. Antimicrobial results were classified upon their ability to clear bacteria around their spot of placement in the testing Petri dish. The threshold between being a positive vs. negative antibacterial plate was at 1.0cm, with anything higher than this being positive, and anything lower being negative. All four butters experiences zones of inhabiting of about 1.0cm but greatly increased when oils including vetiver, black cumin, carrot seed, and olive oils were added. Our most successful plate to date cleared 1.8cm of bacteria, with its formulation being composed of hemp butter and carrot seed oil. UV radiation results were classified upon their ability to decrease the amount of color on color changing beads. When no UV light was shined on the beads they were clear, but once UV light hit them without any barrier, they would immediately turn dark red. The results were classified on a 0-10 scale with 10 being the most positive in acting against UV penetration, comparable to the SPF 70. No butters experienced positive results on their own.The oils that were classified as positive included black cumin, vetiver, wheat germ and carrot seed oil. The results classified under okay (4-7) were comparable to the SPF 15. This classification included illipe and hemp butter. The negative results (0-3) did not aid in UV penetration at all or were less active than the SPF 15; including tacuma butter, mowrah butter, macadamia nut, avocado and red raspberry oils.
This experience has been extremely humbling to be able to conduct such high level research under my undergraduate career. It has provided insight on what the research world looks like and let us really dive in critiquing our results. It is important to note that our research takes on a natural approach to antimicrobial treatments as well as sunscreens. The increase in the usage of strong, chemically man made antibiotics for non-life threatening bacteria has directly produced a greater abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As antibiotics are increasingly used, bacteria gets more and more accustomed to the drugs and develops its own system to fight off the drug, which produces inverse results. This has become an epidemic and it has been noted that 2 million people in the United States get infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria and of those, thousands die because the drugs that are supposed to fight off deadly infections, are now not doing any damage to the bacteria. In fact, antibiotics were found to kill off microbes in the gut by their chemical interaction, introducing chemical imbalances, which can lead to health problems including damage to the immune system and the reduction of brain cell growth.2 Finding natural approaches and eliminating the abuse of man made drugs is the future for chemistry and medicine and I am thankful for the support of Pace University to promote their students in making a change for the future.
1. Bush, Larry M., and Maria T. Perez. “Staphylococcal Infections – Infectious Diseases.” Merck Manuals Professional Edition, www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/gram-positive-cocci/staphylococcal-infections.
2. Nield, David. “Antibiotics Found to Cause Immune System Damage And Reduce Brain Cell Growth.”ScienceAlert,www.sciencealert.com/side-effects-from-antibiotics-include-immune-system-damage-and-fewer-brain-cells-study-shows.
3. “What Is UV Radiation?” American Cancer Society, The American Cancer Society Medical and Editorial Content Team,