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Bringing Biology to Chemists: Mooberry Lab takes on the American Society of Pharmacognosy Meeting

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Author: Corena Shaffer | Category: Beyond The Bench | Cancer Biology | Cancer Biology | August 08, 2017

Dr. Susan Mooberry, Dr. April Risinger, Dr. Andrew Robles, Dr. Alison Clark and myself traveled to Portland on July 29 – August 3 for the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) Annual Meeting

No, I did not spell Pharmacology incorrectly there. Pharmacogonsy can be simply described as the study of natural products in the medical setting. This extends far beyond traditional Chinese medicine or medical marijuana. The talks at ASP cover a broad range of topics always focusing on compounds derived from nature. The Mooberry Lab holds a very unique spot in this society because we do biology, not chemistry. This year we sought to expose this large group of chemists to biology by teaching a workshop called “Determining the mechanism of action of potential anticancer agents: beyond apoptosis.”

During this workshop, we discussed basic pharmacology principles, techniques of measuring cell death, different kinds of cell death and other biological techniques such as western blotting, microscopy and flow cytometry. While most of the individuals in attendance had heard of these techniques, very few knew how the worked, the proper controls needed or the kind of interpretations that could be made from generated data. 

Our goal was to help these chemists understand that full biological studies on new compounds can be very complex and that the overall quality of natural product science could be improved by entering collaborations. We hope that our collaborations between groups at the National Cancer Institute and University of Oklahoma Natural Product Discovery Group serve as examples of the progress that can be made when chemists and biologists work together.

The sessions held over the course of four days covered natural product biosynthesis, fungal derived natural products, natural products from unique sources, and much more. However, one topic that was covered more extensively this year than in years pasts was dietary supplements. Dr. Richard van Breeman from the University of Illinois at Chicago and director of the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements won the Varro Tyler Prize Award and gave a lecture titled “From botanical authentication through clinical evaluation, safety and efficacy of botanical dietary supplements.” He spoke on the work done by UIC Botanical Center researchers on botanical dietary supplements taken by women to manage the symptoms of menopause. The caliper of work done by scientists at the center is remarkable; one could only hope that this creates an environment for doctor recommended botanical dietary supplements.

“Center researchers believe that all botanical dietary supplements must be authenticated, chemically and biologically standardized as well as formulated according to good manufacturing practices so that consumers can be confident of the safety and efficacy profile of the botanical dietary supplements they consume” (Dr. van Breeman on UIC Botanical Center webpage).

When it came time to return to the lab, I was coming back with more than information. I made professional contacts and gained insight for my future career that just cannot be obtained anywhere other than the American Society of Pharmacognosy Annual Meetings.

Andrew Robles, Alison Clark, April Risinger and Corena Shaffer at the Oregon Museum of science and Industry

Shengxin Cai (from University of Oklahoma, Natural Product Discovery Group) and Corena Shaffer

Portland International Rose Test Garden

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