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Sandefur Lab Explores Genetics of Medicinal Plants (2016)

 Dr. Conner Sandefur and his undergraduate researchers

Dr. Conner Sandefur (third from left) and his undergraduate researchers (left to right): Anthony Arrington, K’Yana McLean, Nick Chavis, Tiffany Smart (kneeling), Desiree Cain, and Frederick Feely explore Sampson's Landing (in Pembroke) for medicinal plants.  Joining the Sandefur lab for the day was Joshua Oxendine (in wide-brim hat).

This summer, students in the Sandefur lab worked to extract DNA from a variety of medicinal plants. Combining his molecular genetics and computational biology training, Dr. Conner Sandefur is working with students to explore the use of medicinal plants by Southeast American Indians. The project is an investigation into the cellular mechanisms of the efficacy of medicinal plants to address two main research questions: (1) has a decline in the use of traditional medicines resulted in the removal of positive health benefits that and (2) do interactions between currently used traditional medicines and western therapies contribute to health disparities in American Indian communities?

A group of six undergraduates representing sophomores, juniors, and seniors in both Biology and Chemistry visited Sampson’s Landing in Pembroke to collect the plants. Dr. Lisa Kelly led the field excursion. Back in the lab, the team cut the plant leaves up into fine pieces, then used a series of reagents to lyse the cells and isolate the DNA. They then used known plant genome sequences from the NIH genome database to design primers and amplify the genes. The group will continue the isolation process throughout the fall to work toward a deeper understanding of the impacts of the use of these medicinal plants.
Dr. Conner Sandefur and his undergraduate researchersDr. Conner Sandefur (center) and his undergraduate researchers present their research at the 2016 RISE End-of-Summer Student Research Presentation.

Web manager's note:  Dr. Sandefur joined the Biology faculty at UNC Pembroke in 2015 after completing the SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at UNC Chapel Hill.  In addition to mentoring students in undergraduate research, he teaches Microbiology and Genetics.  You can learn more about him by visiting his website and by clicking here.

Article Submitted by Conner Sandefur

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