End of year report

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,

Blog #3-Reflections

What I love most about science is that it is made up of basic building blocks; including elements in chemistry and cells in biology. When it comes to the chemical aspect, different molecules are made up of different elements which also exhibit different atom connectivity. These different elements and bonds behave in different manners both physically and chemically (i.e while two molecules might have the same ratio of elements, they may react differentely based off the bond strengths and differences. This concept of science is what I continuously have to think about in my research.

Before being able to even test for our goal, the most important part is the formulation. If the formulation is not homogeneous, meaning evenly spread out, our results will not be as accurate. For example, if we test a portion of our samples that has more/less of the components that affects bacterial results, this will skew our results. While one oil and butter mixture may evenly disperse, another may not. Thus, it is important to perform many literatures searches as to why this happens. Do the two oils have different polarities? Different solubilities? Different melting points/boiling points? Different bond strengths? Different densities? What are the differences in their chemical makeup? These are only some of the questions that need to be answered when figuring out why two things behave differently, and why one works better over the other. If we are able to pin point some of the advantages within a substance to be antimicrobial and a UV protectant, this will lead us to a more efficient experiment. This is why literature searches are very important. Science is very much a collaborative field and it’s vital to dissect past research in the concentration.

As of today, we have about a few dozen formulations that are active against killing bacteria as well as acting as a natural sunscreen. Since we now have a good amount of positive, and negative results, we are in the process of differentiating the good from the bad and starting to answer those questions. I am excited to pin point the “perfect” formulation and order new exotic oils/butters to test!

Blog #2- Progress of our research

When talking about research, it is important to recognize that it takes loads of time. You need to collect enough information to prove your experiment as a positive product as well as making sure that there are no outside variables affecting your experiment. When it comes to science, there are many different techniques to interpret results. Finding the correct technique to use is one of the most time consuming aspects in this field of study. Within our project, great strides have been taken to finally push our experiment forward. Before entering this research competition, Dr. Rizzo introduced me to her area of study for one whole semester prior. During that one semester only 1 batch of plates (about 15 surfaces) were able to be tested, with only 1 positive result. Waiting almost 4 months for just 1 positive result was not very ideal for us, especially in the demanding market of medicine. Finally, Dr. Melkonian, who tests our surfaces at a nearby college, was able to find an ideal procedure that is a faster and more effective way to test for antimicrobial effects. With this new finding, we were able to make 5 new formulations that were positive against fighting a common bacteria of the skin called S. aureus. Next, it was important for us to link antimicrobial surfaces with protection against UV light. This led our focus to turn to the positive results we achieved against bacteria and test those specific mixtures to be able to achieve double the benefits.

Testing for UV protection was tough since there are not many experiments that provide insight on a simple way to carry out this research. We knew that we needed color changing beads, which changed to a fluorescent color in the presence of UV light. The UV light would be provided by a UV light lamp which was taken from one of the labs. The first thought was to place the color-changing beads inside a ziplock bag and cover a small portion of the outside of the bag in our formulation. This was tricky since most of the formulations were liquid at room temperature. This caused them to run off the bag and a new idea emerged. What if we used clear scotch tape and boxed off a square as a border so the oils wouldn’t run? This idea is our latest test and actually worked a lot better, but still some of the oils ran in certain directions. Our latest question is figuring out a new procedure to test against UV light, some ideas may be sticking with a petri dish instead of a plastic bad. In all, we found that the oils used with our butters that concluded to be active against bacteria, were also active against UV light.

In the next couple of months, we will continue you to make new formulations as well as improved procedures. It is also important that we test all components of the mixtures alone first, to see if they have a better or worse effect then when they are added to a mixture. If the oil or butter has worse effects within the mixture than on its own, why could this be?

I am excited to find more new and exciting results and push our results to the population for others to start using a more organic approach to medicine.

BLOG #1-Synthesis of unique lubricants made of exotic butters infused with indigenous oils to promote inhibition of bacteria and protection against UV radiation.

Disputes about the affects of antibiotics have recently been on the rise as more research shows they are found to cause damage in the immune system as well as inhibit brain cell growth. Unfortunately, 30% of all prescribed antibiotics are not necessary and stem from doctors prescribing the medications before they receive patients test results. With the overuse of these antibiotics comes the consequence of building resistance towards them, so when needed, our bodies will resist the drug instead of helping our immune system. This topic has sparked many controversial arguments and is implanted in the 2020 action plan of the White House. By year 2020, our government hopes to push developments of new tests to decrease the amount of antibiotics prescribed. In order to achieve this goal, there would need to be 15%, or 23 million, fewer prescriptions by 2020. Our research focusses on aiding the governments plans to do so. It is important to understand that antibiotics are not the saving grace of all bacterial infections, but instead natural approaches can be more beneficial in regards to specific infections.

Our skin, hair and nails are crucial in keeping antagonists out of our bodies internal systems. Fungi like, Trichophyton rubrum, and bacteria like, Staphylococcus aureus, are the most prevalent causes of skin affairs. If not treated, infections of the skin like, Streptococcus pyogenes, are able to penetrate into internal organs and turn into fatalities. Our research not only focuses on bacteria affecting our internal makeup, but also how the mutagen, UV radiation, can alter the expression of our cells and lead to lethal health issues like cancer. In order to test against bacteria and UV radiation, Illipe butter, Mowrah butter, Tacuma butter, and Hemp butter are infused with a variety of exotic oils at different concentrations. These oils include argan, grapeseed, wintergreen, rosemary, guava seed, jajoba, lemongrass, cottonseed, black sesame, vetiver, black walnut and black cumin. In order to make these surfaces, we first need to melt the butters, since they are solids at room temperature. Once they are melted, specific portions of oils are pipetted into the butter. These mixtures are then placed into petri dishes and sent out to be tested against bacteria. If the growth of bacteria on our plates is less than the control (without the mixture) this means we see positive results. To test against UV radiation, UV light changing beads are placed into ziplock bags. On the outside of the bags our mixtures are spread out evenly, and a UV light is shined on top. Again, we will compare our color changing beads with our mixture to the beads in the ziplock bag without our compound. If the beads are less vibrant than the control, this means we see positive results.

We hope that our novel blends show positive results in working against bacteria and decreasing UV light exposure to the skin. If results are not positive, new exotic oils will be derived from all parts of the world, to find the best outcome for our population.