Peeling Away Problems
The Antioxidating, Antimicrobial, and Antimutagenic Effects of Tree Bark
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Trees can basically be separated into two groups: softwoods (or conifers), and hardwoods (or deciduous). As the names suggest, softwoods are generally soft, or softer and of a lesser density than hardwoods and vice versa. In the forest products industry (such as the pulp and paper industry), the trees are cut down, and the bark is peeled off and left over with few purposes. The bark of these trees has many medicinal properties; for example: aspirin originally came from the bark of the willow tree, tamoxifen comes from the bark of the Pacific Yew, and the bark from Samoan trees may help to combat HIV. The bark of softwood trees in particular, contains many antioxidants. Pine extracts have proven to have many antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals in everyday life (ex. by boosting the immune system) (Reference 3).
Antioxidants are chemicals that reduce oxidative damage to cells and biomolecules that is caused by free radicals (Free radicals are molecules made of oxygen that result in cell damage). A diet containing antioxidants from plants is required for the health of most mammals, since plants are an important source of organic antioxidant chemicals. Antioxidants are also used as ingredients in dietary supplements that are used for health purposes such as preventing cancer and heart disease (Reference 3). Polyphenols are one kind of antioxidants since they can adsorb and neutralize free radicals. They are well documented to have antimicrobial activity against a large number of pathogenic bacteria (Microbes are single-celled organisms such as bacteria) (Reference 2).
The Ames Test is a widely used biological assay for screening potential carcinogens by testing for the mutagenesis of certain chemicals on bacteria. This relies on the fact that the most common causes of cancer are mutations brought about by DNA damage. Chemicals that damage and cause mutations in bacterial DNA are also likely to cause mutations in mammalian cells. The tree bark extracts may have antimutagenic effects by neutralizing carcinogens (Reference 4).
The experiments in this project can tell us how many polyphenols can be extracted with water from the tree bark, the antioxidating activity of the bark extracts, and the antibacterial and antimutagenic effects of the tree bark.