Making Science Palpable: Trees That Grow Skin

Article by Britton Shortle 

In the field of Organic Chemistry, the use of natural products or things from nature in reactions is very useful seeing as most natural materials are so abundant. One of the most famous uses of natural products in organic reactions is the development of the most common drug: Aspirin. Aspirin was derived from the bark of the willow tree and the active ingredient was discovered in ancient Greece by Hippocrates. While this is a great example of using natural products in the form of Organic reactions, there are much more current examples of these processes.

Scientists in China have discovered an active ingredient in the Myrrha tree that could prove useful after further research. This tree has been around since ancient times and has been widely used in religious rituals based both in Christianity and the Hebrew texts. Many trees and plants in ancient texts have been found to have healing qualities especially with lesions, cuts, and similar ailments. The Myrrha tree heals itself very similarly to the way human wounds heal themselves. The Myrrha tree has been used by indigenous people to treat a multitude of things, yet the most interesting thing is that it boosts circulation and granulation in the blood. With these discoveries, it allows these scientists to use them to regenerate skin cells.

In this era of advanced technology, it is much more common place to use stem cells in treatment to regenerate just about anything. With the use of the Myrrha tree and previous knowledge about stem cells, these scientists have extracted compounds that promote the growth of skin cells in humans. These extracts were separated from ground plant material with the use of simple solvents and warm water. Once these compounds were extracted, these scientists then had to see what they look like at the molecular level. Since these extracts have never been seen or synthesized before, they must be looked at in detail to determine what compounds and other organic groups are bound to the molecule.

Now these extracts were combined with a specific type of stem cell called an “adipose-derived stem cell”. These are stem cells that are taken out of fatty tissue. The extracts were combined with the ADSC’s to determine whether or not these extracts would boost the ability of these stem cells to transform into human tissue. To be able to see if this activity was indeed boosted as they expected, the use of biological markers was put into place. These biological markers are used to indicate the presence of certain types of cells, in these scientist’s case, they are cells associated with skin. The markers showed that the extracts did indeed provide a 60% increase to the promotion of growth in skin cells. This is a huge breakthrough in the use of natural materials combined with stem cells in the field of medicine. This treatment process could be the first step in quicker recovery in patients.

If you would like to take a look at the article yourself, here it is: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.joc.7b03182

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