Traditional Psychotria insularum vs. Western Medicine's Ibuprofen Parallels in Inflammation Reduction via Iron Chelation

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Sofia Stitz
Eric Tepe


Record ID: 257

Awards: Excellence in Research Mentoring

Student Major: BS Biology, BFA Ballet, Pre-Medicine Certificate

Project Advisor: Eric Tepe

Abstract: Traditional medicinal plants contain an array of compounds which can be used for therapeutic purposes and as precursors for the synthesis of modern pharmaceuticals. Samoan traditional medicine is rather understudied, despite the astonishing effects it has shown amongst indigenous Samoan people. "Matalafi", the leaf homogenate of the coffee relative, Psychotria insularum, is habitually used in Samoan traditional medicine to treat inflammation. Matalafi has been shown to have powerful effects on the body, comparable to commonly used Ibuprofen. The focus of this study was to highlight both therapeutic and metabolic similarities between the effects of active compounds in P.insularum with modern day Ibuprofen. Through a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, an iron homeostasis role was identified in P.insularum, using a genomics approach, to better understand its mechanism of action, and usefulness in its traditional use for reducing inflammation. Through fractionalization of the homogenate, the researchers were able to identify two flavanol glycosides, rutin and nicotiflorin, each which binded iron. Relating these findings to mammalian immune cells and their traditional action in the human body, researchers found that the iron-chelator activity of the P.insularum homogenate decreased pro-inflammatory responses in the body and enhanced anti-inflammatory cytokine responses within immune cells. Similarly, Ibuprofen chelates iron in a stable manner, enabling treatment of inflammation due to iron overload. Using metabolomics, a deeper understanding of Samoan traditional medicine and its parallels to western medicine can be used to advance pharmaceuticals as we know today. 


Article Details

Category: Medical Frontiers
Author Biography

Sofia Stitz

Major: BS Biology, BFA Ballet, Pre-Medicine Certificate