RISE Video Transcription 4 (Nadja Cech)
NC: Well, my first research experience was actually as an undergraduate student and my
chemistry teacher had grants to take students out into the wilderness and study lake water
and that was beautiful and wonderful and I thought, “Wow, this what chemists do? I need to
be a chemist!”
NC: My major focus is studying how plants can be used to treat disease or prevent disease.
We are interested in identifying the molecules in plants that are responsible for their
biological activity. We are specifically focused on treating drug-resistant bacterial infections
such as multi-drug resistant staph infections (MRSA) and also inflammation such as the
inflammation that is associated with colds and flus, arthritis, you name it.
NC: When I very first came here to UNC Greensboro eleven years ago, I thought I would start
out by studying this plant known as Golden Seal, which grows in the hardwood forests of
North Carolina actually, it is native to this part of the country and what we find with this
plant is we find that it contains a bunch of diverse chemical compounds that act in very
different ways against the bacteria and that all those different ways can help with treating an
NC: A number of students come to me because they have experience with a particular illness
in their family that they are interested in treating, or they have experience with a particular
type of traditional medicine that they are interested in researching. We actually look a lot at
traditional therapies that are used in traditional medicines, traditional Native American
traditions in the United States, sometimes also traditional ayurvedic medicine, traditional
Chinese medicine, look at plants that have been used for those purposes and try to
understand how they work, do they work, what do they work best for. It is really exciting to
take a mixture of unknown chemicals from a plant and see what it does and then try to
identify the chemicals that are responsible for that, and often we find totally new activities
that know one knew of or find totally new molecules that no one has ever identified before,
so it has kind of that National Geographic, you know, out there on the edge searching out,
answering questions that no one has ever answered.
NC: The traditional Western pharmaceutical approach is all about identifying a single
compound, isolating a single compound, and using that to develop a drug. But that is not the
way that traditional medicines work and most of the world still relies on traditional
therapies that are multi-component mixtures and so we are interested in identifying
multiple active constituents in a mixture and figuring out ways to study that mixture and
understand what it is doing, and often that is very different than what happens when you
take one of those components out of the mixture and look at it by itself. It is great. And it is
all the more great because, you know, you had to fail ninety-nine times before you succeeded
that one-hundredth time, so that is very satisfying.
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