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Research Poster

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Ethnobotany is a promising method for discovering new drugs, drawing on the knowledge of generations of traditional healers. For hundreds of years, the Chumash people have lived in the coastal regions of California, becoming experts on the many uses of its natural resources. One such resource is the Yerba Santa plant (Eriodictyon crassifolium), which was used by the Chumash to treat a myriad of conditions including coughs, chest pain, and fever. It was also used as a poultice on wounds and cuts, suggesting that the plant has a stimulating effect on the growth of skin cells. Because of these qualities, this experiment quantitatively tested the potential of Yerba Santa to encourage fibroblast growth using a goldfish scale keratocyte assay. The extract tested was made by grinding Yerba Santa leaves and storing them overnight in methanol to allow the release of potentially bioactive molecules from the cells. After methanol extraction, the remaining material was then resuspended in a modified solution of PBS (phosphate buffered saline with MgCl, CaCl, and 10% mass by volume dextrose). Individual goldfish (Carassius auratus) scales were then treated with either the modified PBS with extract or the modified PBS alone as a control. After 48 hours, ImageJ software was used to compare the areas of new cell growth. The group treated with extract were found to have enhanced growth relative to the control. The mean growth for control scales was 0.246 mm2 compared to 1.014mm2 for scales treated with the Yerba Santa extract. Mean values were significantly different by a two tailed Student’s t-test, P = 0.0063. These results are consistent with the Chumash’s use of Yerba Santa to treat wounds and skin abrasions indicating that it may be a viable option as a topical treatment of skin disorders.

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