MU Research Team Finds Potential Use for Common Tree
COLUMBIA - MU researchers have isolated a compound found in Eastern Red Cedar trees that could be a new anti-microbial agent. Chung-Ho Lin, a researcher in the MU Center for Agroforestry, teamed with George Stewart, the department chair of Veterinary Pathobiology, and Brian Thompson of the Department of Biochemistry in the efforts. Their work has led to a compound that could kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a strand of staph that is resistant to most medications.
They began working on the project three years ago when Lin was asked to find a use for this common tree. There are about 500 million Eastern Red Cedars in the state of Missouri. And the work they do does not require the trees to be cut down - it can all be done using the trees' berries and needles.
MRSA has become a very prominent form of staph infection and typically appears in patients hospitalized with open wounds, invasive diseases and weakened immune systems. At this point, MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, but when examined in test tube experiments, the isolated compound appears to be effective in killing the strand.
But Stewart says antibiotics are still an idea of the future. The next step involves making sure there are no toxic effects from the compound. He says that similar compounds have proven to be non-toxic so they anticipate and hope for similar results from upcoming experiments.
If the compound passes the tests, it could not only become an effective treatment for MRSA, but also for melanoma and skin cancer. In test tube experiments, it effectively prohibited cancer cells from dividing. Beyond that, the new discovery could potentially be used in cosmetic products.