Antimicrobial Discovery Lab

Antimicrobial Discovery Lab 

Antimicrobial Discovery: Bacterial resistance and its rapid increase is a major concern of global public health and is emerging as one of the most significant challenges to human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), more people die today of bacterial infections than HIV and more people will die of bacterial infections than cancer by 2050.   One approach to treat infectious diseases is the use of plant extracts individually and/or as an alternative approach in combination with antibiotics. This combination therapy or synergistic therapy against resistant microorganisms may lead to new ways of treating infectious diseases and this represents a potential area for future research. Therefore, screening of natural antimicrobial compounds with improved efficacy and safety is an important alternative mode for combating infectious diseases. Desert plants synthesize a wide variety of secondary metabolites to survive adverse conditions of the arid zone. The diversity of plants in the Sonoran Desert (in and around Tucson) has invariably contributed to the success of the desert’s indigenous cultures. Anticancer agents derived from medicinal plants include vinca alkaloids, vinblastine, vincristine, and podophyllotoxins. In recent years, efforts have been made to find effective and safe bioactive phytochemicals, such as essential oils, phenolic compounds, and saponins. The scientific community has not extensively studied desert plants for their medicinal properties. Therefore, the present investigation will evaluate and characterize antimicrobial principles from higher plants and algae to address the need for safe and effective antimicrobial agents against drug resistant microbes (both bacteria and fungi). Additional aims of this study is to identify and document medicinal plants using DNA barcoding technology. DNA barcoding is a system to aid species recognition and identification. It involves the use of a small segment of the genome to serve as a unique identifier for each species (PIs: Ramesh Velupillaimani, Daisy Savarirajan, Karen Denzler).


Plant-based metabolic inhibitors: Certain edible plants such as berries, citrus fruit, and various spices contain high levels of compounds called flavonoids that have been found to stop the progression of uncontrolled cell growth or cancer.  Plants that are high in flavonoid content will be extracted with solvents and the extracts will be tested for their ability to inhibit cancer cell growth. Subsequent tests will focus on inhibition of cell growth pathways involving mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) complexes.  This study will use various cancer cell lines to specifically look at inhibition of mTOR Complex 1 by flavonoid extracts and the downstream inhibition of cellular protein synthesis components.  This study will also analyze the activation of apoptosis in cancer cells treated with flavonoid compounds due to the inhibition of mTOR Complex 2 (PI: Karen Denzler).

Affiliated Investigators: Click investigator's name to read bio

Ramesh Velupillaimani                [email protected]

Karen Denzler                                [email protected]

Daisy Savarirajan                           [email protected]

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