The Quave Research Group is engaged in a number of exciting and innovative botanical drug discovery projects! Here is a sneak peak at a few of the projects currently underway. If you are interested in making a financial donation in support any of these projects, please visit our Support page for more information.
MEDICINAL PLANTS FOR COVID-19
- The plant kingdom offers incredible chemical diversity to explore in the search for small molecules to treat SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. We are investigating our one-of-a-kind chemical library (Quave Natural Products Library, QNPL), composed of >2,000 extracts from >600 species, for potential inhibitors of viral entry and replication in models of SARS-CoV-2. In addition to efficacy, we are carefully examining potential toxicity of any of these botanicals to humans.
HERBAL SAFETY: EXPLORING HERB-DRUG INTERACTIONS
- Plant natural products are widely used both in traditional and integrative medicine across the globe. When it comes to the integration of herbs with allopathic (pharmaceutical) chemical approaches, there is still much to learn with regards to safety. Some herbs contain compounds that interfere with the main enzymes (cytochrome P450 enzymes) responsible for drug metabolism. We are examining >600 species to identify natural compounds that could interfere with drug metabolism.
HERBS FOR PAIN
- The United States faces a major public health crisis due to the abuse of opiate drugs. New non-addictive therapeutics for pain management are urgently needed. Working with collaborator Dr. Isaac Chiu of Harvard University, we are exploring the analgesic effects of terpenes found in the Cannabaceae plant family–specifically focusing on compounds shared between hops and cannabis.
- What is a biofilm? Bacterial biofilms contribute to the highly drug resistant nature of many bacterial infections. A biofilm is a slimy matrix that bacteria produce and hide in. They can actually serve as a physical barrier, or shield, that protects the bacterial community from attack by antibiotics or the host immune response.
- Why the Elmleaf Blackberry? We began research on this plant several years ago when it was identified as a plant medicine commonly used in southern Italy for the treatment of skin infections. We investigated all of the plant parts for activity against Staphylococcus aureus (the cause of staph infection) and found that an extract of the roots was most effective. Since this initial discovery, we have continued to study this botanical product for its activity against other bacteria implicated in common infections (i.e. ear infections and sinus infections). Our current work is focused on identifying active compounds in the plant. The most promising aspect of this botanical product is that it can make bacteria more susceptible to existing antibiotics, and the best future application may be as an adjuvant, or product added to antibiotics to better treat otherwise resistant infections.
QUORUM-QUENCHERS FROM CHESTNUT LEAVES AND PEPPERTREE FRUITS
- What is a quorum-quencher? Quorum sensing is a system of communication that bacteria use to “talk” to one another and coordinate the release of toxins and other bacterial products. A quorum-quencher is a drug that can turn off this communication system, disabling their toxin factory. This can be very important in the disease process as it is the toxins that cause tissue damage in the host.
- Why a medicinal plant extract? Much like the case of the Elmleaf Blackberry, the source of these bioactive extracts was first identified in a screening study of medicinal plants used for the treatment of skin and soft tissue infection in southern Italy. Our work on peppertree was inspired by research on historic uses on this invasive species. Check out our publications page to read more about these exciting discoveries.
- Medical Ethnobotany of the Mediterranean. In a long-standing (12 year) collaboration with Dr. Andrea Pieroni of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, we continue to explore the medical ethnobotanical landscape of the Mediterranean region, with a focus on Italy and the Balkans. The aim of these studies is to document and preserve the traditional ecological knowledge of local peoples, with special emphasis on traditional health strategies.
- Medical Ethnobotany of the Balkans. In a collaboration with Dr. Avni Hajdari and Dr. Bexhet Mustafa of the University of Prishtina, Kosovo, we are documenting the use of wild plants as sources of food and medicine. In addition to our aims to document and preserve the traditional ecological knowledge of this region, we are also engaged in collaborative projects to assess the antibacterial activity of plants used in the treatment of skin and soft tissue infection in this region.
- Antibacterial Agents from Mediterranean Fungi. In collaboration with Dr. Alessandro Saitta of the University of Palermo, Italy, we are beginning a new screening study to examine terrestrial fungi from Sicily for potential antibacterial activity.