All Things Chromatography

Thin Layer Chromatography used in cancer research

We picked up this application of Thin Layer Chromatography from

While they haven’t exactly discovered a cure for cancer, what Hughes and Arauza did over the summer months does have quite a bit of value — both in terms of scientific research and in their own personal education and edification...

The pair technically started their research in the spring 2009 term after learning in November that they were chosen for the program. They spent the spring doing an extensive literature review once they chose a topic from the umbrella of choices they were presented.

They chose to follow a path started by May 2009 graduate Joanne Jacob, who had experimented with 12 different herbs and their effect on tumor growth in mice. One in particular had significant results in Jacob’s research, and the two coeds decided to further check out Ashwagandha, commonly known as Indian Ginseng and used by many to treat depression, inflammation and neurological disorders.

Using a powdered form of the root, Hughes and Arauza first rinsed it to remove any lipids, then ran a 6-hour process known as a Soxhlet to liquify the extract into a more usable form. Gray likened the process to a drip coffee maker, where heated water (or in this case methanol) runs through the extract and then back through repeatedly until it is complete.

Using thin-layer chromatography on glass plates, the team was able to separate the extract into various compounds. Through nearly 30 plates — a time-consuming process itself — the duo was able to identify one particular compound that was strong every time. They eluded the compound from the plate and tested it on 4T1 breast cancer cells grown in Petri dishes to determine how it would affect the cells.

The results were astonishing.

"This was really annihilating the breast cancer cells," noted Arauza, pointing to a chart of the results that showed the cell growth was dramatically reduced compared to even the full extract. "This one was very potent; none of the others were even close."

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Topics: TLC, TLC Plates, Thin Layer Chromatography, cancer