Blog 4: Correlating the flavonoid and phenol content to the antioxidant activity of various European propolis

Throughout the past year, Dr. Mojica, my faculty advisor and research mentor, have worked with the bee product propolis, or as it otherwise and sometimes more fondly known, bee glue. For the past year, we have worked with many propolis samples from regions throughout the world. The importance of the study of propolis, is its potential to be used as a complementary medicine or as a natural supplement due to its considerable antioxidant content. The problems arise in the effectiveness of different samples of propolis, as there are numerous factors that can alter the compounds present and subsequent antioxidant properties of a particular sample. Such factors include the climate of a region and the botanical sources available to provide bees with bud exudate, a key ingredient in propolis. However, even propolis gathered within the same region at the same time of year can present differently in terms of composition and antioxidant properties. The goal of our study was to use standardized tests for antioxidant activity, phenol content, and flavonoid content on each sample to determine those with the greatest content of bioactive compounds (phenolics and flavonoids) and most antioxidant activity. The DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picryl-hydrazyl)and ABTS (2,2-azino-bis-3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) assays determined the radical scavenging activity of propolis samples, the FRAP (ferric reducing antioxidant power) assay determined the reducing ability, the Folin-Ciocalteu assay determined the total phenol content, and the AlCl3 assay determined total flavonoid content.

It was hoped that following identification of the most and least effective antioxidants, instrumental methods of analysis such as GC-MS could be used to identify the compounds that had contributed to the observed properties, however the present circumstances prevented such data from being collected. The study was however successful in determining antioxidant activity of each sample through three different assays and determining both total phenolic and total flavonoid content for each sample.

Excitingly, the preliminary research Dr. Mojica and I had done last year, prior to this study, is currently being reviewed for publication in an undergraduate research journal, so it was extremely exciting to be enabled to continue this work. This research was also accepted for presentation at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting, this year’s location being in Philadelphia, prior to its cancellation. This study is also currently serving as the basis for my undergraduate thesis as per the requirements of the Pforzheimer’s Honors College.

Dr. Mojica has been extremely valuable as I am less familiar with writing in the sciences and he has helped me to turn our raw, unformatted data into clear and presentable information. I am extremely grateful to have been a part of this undergraduate research program, as I feel more comfortable, having gone through it, with planning and carrying research in a laboratory setting while collaborating and working with others to continuously improve experiments and our studies as the research progresses.

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