Chemistry Department Seminar: Visiting Assistant Professor Candidate
Characterizing the chemical complexity of medicinal plants with metabolomics: a case study with Achillea
Herbal medicines formed the bulk of our materia medica until the beginning of the 20th century. However, except as a source of novel constituents for drugs, herbs are very much seen as alternative medicines. Herbs are inherently chemically complex and this complexity makes them difficult to study. The result has been an emphasis on reductionist chemical techniques such as bioassay-guided fractionation to enable isolation and identification of few very active constituents. While such work has yielded many important drugs, whole herbs and their crude extracts can have very different medicinal effects than their pure isolated constituents. Thus, it is important that we understand the full chemical spectrum of medicinal plants.
High-resolution accurate-mass (HRAM) mass spectrometry is an enabling technique for the field of metabolomics, the study of all the small molecules in an organism. Achillea is a circumboreal, taxonomically complex, polyploid genus in the Asteraceae family that exhibits a high degree of phenotypic and chemotypic diversity. It also has a long history of medicinal use for a variety of ailments and is still one of the most popular herbs in Europe. I will discuss how I use LC-MS based metabolomics to describe the chemical complexity in the genus Achillea.