Investigating the “logic puzzle” of traditional Chinese medicine: deciphering the cooperative protective effect of natural remedies against oxidative damage

April 8, 2021   /  

Name: Kejun “Coco” Liu
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Advisor: Dr. Sara Martin, Dr. James West (second reader)

Humans are under constant threat from oxidant exposure. This correlates with aging and diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. Medical plants frequently used in Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) have the ability to cure or prevent the oxidative damage, but the underlying bioactive mechanism of those remedies has not been elucidated. Approaches to improve understanding have been made to solve the “Logic Puzzle” of each herb and their active ingredients to and link specific compounds with their biomedical functions, but rarely have research efforts considered the outcomes of using combinations of active ingredients from CHM, on health. This study explored the cooperative effect of two specific compounds, hyperoside (HYP) and artemisinin (ART), active ingredients of the herb pair treatments of AA-LJ (A. annua and L. japonica) in CHM, against oxidative damage in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as Baker’s yeast.

The cooperative enhancement in the antioxidant effect of the two compounds was examined upon exposure to common causes of oxidative damage, carbon tetrachloride and hydrogen peroxide. These studies indicate that a combination of both ART and HYP could provide immediate prevention of oxidative damage introduced by H2O2. Additionally, application of both ART and HYP creates persistent prevention of oxidative damage introduced by CCl4. This result sheds some light on the mechanism of action of the bioactive ingredients in the AA-LJ herb pair, ART and HYP, and increases our understanding of the oxidant defense mechanism of yeast.



Coco will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

38 thoughts on “Investigating the “logic puzzle” of traditional Chinese medicine: deciphering the cooperative protective effect of natural remedies against oxidative damage”

  1. Coco, what a fascinating project! I have two questions: First, are there other traditional remedies or combinations of remedies you considered trying? Second, will you be continuing this research in the future?

    1. Thank you for you questions. First, in the rime of research, I have only tried one combination of the natural. remedies of interest, based on the screening result from the scripts and previous researches about their bioactive ingredients. For the second question, yes, I would like to continue the project for more potential connections between the bioactive ingredients and the future goal is to construct a more systematic network of relationship for better systemized Chinese Herbal Medicine.

      1. I’m excited that you have plans for continuing–best wishes in all your endeavors!

  2. Congratulations on this accomplishment! I have enjoyed working with you in the lab for the past three years and watching you grow as a scientist! This project was so interesting and unique, and it was fun to learn about it alongside of you this year. What is your biggest takeaway from the IS experience (outside of the conclusions of your study)?

    1. Thank you Dr. Martin, and sorry for the late reply–I just woke up after a long day of travel–and it is 8 am at local time now. It was also wonderful to have you as my advisor and for all the supports form you all along the past three years. The biggest take away message for me is: Reality is not what could be planned for by ourselves, so, flexibility is important.
      At the time of COVID19 pandemic, it was not easy to keep up with the schedules, and the inherited problem with performing experiment with yeast was that their growth is beyond human control. All those factors has led to unexpected results and further modification to refine the procedures. In this progress, your suggestions and little tips in lab has been helpful, and helped me in completing the “full story” of the small project, and refining the details while being flexible in plans.

  3. Great science in a liberal arts context! I have a future I.S. student who will be trying to generate reactive oxygen species on purpose, as an anti-cancer treatment. It’s funny how ROS / free radicals are “bad” or “good” depending on where they are and how they’re being used. Thanks for sharing your research.

    1. Yes, it is very interesting to consider the role of chemicals, in this case, ROS specifically, can play vastly different role in different content. Thank you for sharing in project, and it is fascinating to know this other example of utilizing “bad” chemical to do “good” in a larger picture. In fact, many anti-oxidants were discovered to have detoxifying mechanisms that involve generation and stabilizing free radicals in order to react with the harmful ROS that actively present in cells!

  4. Congratulations Coco! It has been great to see your growth as a scholar since FYS. I wish you continued success and look forward to hearing about your next steps.

    1. Thank you Dr. Sobeck for your support! Wooster has supported me with incredible tools and strength academically and mentally, and I am grateful for the accompany, wisdom, and kindness received here. I wish you and your family joy, health, and safety, and I believe you will inspire many more student with your passion in integrating science with other fields, just like what your FYS brought to me!

  5. Wonderful presentation, Coco, and fascinating research! Congratulations and all the best to you!

  6. Coco, do you think there should be more research put into traditional medicines like this?

  7. Congrats Coco! This project is amazing, what was your process like trying to choose an IS topic?

  8. Yessss Coco! Congratulations!

    One question I have is, if you were to do this research again, but this time exploring different CHMs, which ones would you do? And why?

    1. Thank you Nate! I will miss you! for your question, if I were to further my direction of investigating the relationship between natural remedies, my next research projects would be Artemisinin and another bioactive ingredient in L.Japonica plant other than Hyperoside (there are 140 in total being found in this plant). To narrow down to another compound, detailed research on their functions and chemical property would be in need. This screening was done for this presented project as well. Another future direction for lab from this project is to further investigate the mechanism of antioxidant. For example, if the mechanism involves mitochondria ROS detoxifying cascades, gene knockout can be performed to inactivates catalase in this pathway.

      Best of luck for your future Senior IS!

  9. Congratulations, Coco, for finishing such an important IS project, and for completing your degree in three years!! Also, thanks a lot for all your great contribution to cultural diversity, equality, and inclusion at the College of Wooster! I will miss you so much!!

    1. Thank you, Dr. You! I am grateful for all your encouragement and support for our student action, student events, and the CSSA. your passion in cilvil rights and equality is contagious, and I believe your wisdom will unify many more voices in Wooster, and worldwide!

  10. Your work on understanding the biochemical properties of ancient medicine is an amazing area of research. There is so much to be learned from learning from the past and your work was a pleasure to listen to!

  11. COCO!!! You are so amazing and I’ve loved having you as a lunch buddy. Many congratulations.

    1. Thank you, Cara, for your support! I have enjoyed seeing you around and thank you for coming by and saying hi. I wish you the best luck in finishing your Junior IS and your future year building on you final IS. Trust me, although it is painful sometimes, you will finish your baby before you even notice!

  12. I have the same comment! I like the presentation, Coco. Have a good trip home!

  13. Congratulations, Coco! You are so amazing and your project is so cool! All the best to you!

    1. Thank you Vicky for your support! I wish you all the best as you are approaching the construction of YOUR IS!

  14. Congratulation Coco! Excellent work and great presentation. Wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

    1. Merlin, same to you! I have been proud of you and believe that your brilliance, kindness, and passion will shine wherever you go! (please check your physical mailbox with my many thanks and congrats)

  15. Thank you for sharing your research, are you planning on pursuing pharmacology or another field after Wooster?

    1. Thank you for your support. I will take a gap year for internships working for a pharmacutical company in lab (in my hometown, Changsha, Hunan, China) and for cooperating the patients in the Pronvical Maternal and Children’s hospital. In a mean time, I will be completing my application for Medical school. My career goal is to be a Hepatobiliary surgeon.

  16. I really enjoyed this presentation, Coco! (The background music was a wonderful touch!) Having been a beneficiary many times of Chinese herbs and acupuncture (most notably for very bad morning sickness), I’m glad to see you’re researching aspects of the herbs that should be studied. Congratulations to you and enjoy your success!

  17. Coco, congratulations! This is so impressive. I wish you the best of luck in the next steps of your journey!

  18. Awesome job Coco! I have recently learned about the discovery of artemisinin. It is so cool to see the biochemical effects of these more traditional treatments and I think it is really important work.

  19. So proud of you Coco and so honored to get to work with you, even if it was for a short time. Congrats on finishing and I wish you the best of luck! You will accomplish great things!

  20. Congratulations Coco! I really like that you decided to study the mechanism behind traditional medicine using a scientific approach. Good luck on your future endeavors!

  21. This feels like watching a graduate level presentation. You are so talented Coco! I’m grateful to have shared a campus with you, and I am so confident you’re going to accomplish amazing things after graduation!

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