Current Research Projects

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.

BIOFILM INHIBITORS FROM THE ELMLEAF BLACKBERRYfoto cassandra 059

  • 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 A MEDICINAL PLANT

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  • 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 this proprietary composition was first identified in a screening study of medicinal plants used for the treatment of skin and soft tissue infection in southern Italy. This study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Alex Horswill’s group at the University of Iowa. We have been making great progress on the isolation of individual active compounds that can shut down this system. Stay tuned for updates and new publications on these exciting findings!

 

INNOVATIVE STUDENT PROJECTS

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  • Natural Product Analogs. In collaboration with Dr. Emily Weinert’s group at Emory University, we are designing synthetic analogs of natural products that we have found to exhibit antibacterial activity with the goal of designing new compounds (based on nature) with increased potency and efficacy against our targets of interest.

 

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONS

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  • 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.

 

 

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