Brooklyn Heights

St. Francis bio professor in forefront of plant-associated antiviral research

Steven Lipson’s Research Hopes to Save Thousands of Lives

March 6, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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New research from Steven M. Lipson, Professor of Biology and Health Promotions at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, could pave the way to use plant chemicals to prevent thousands of children from being killed each year by an intestinal virus.

The work by Dr. Lipson and colleagues sets the stage for using natural plant chemicals (from cranberries, grapes and green tea) to combat intestinal viruses like rotavirus. In third world countries, hundreds of thousands of infants and young children die every year from rotavirus, which causes diarrhea, fever and cramps.

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Lipson’s most recent article, published in the Journal of Medicinally Active Plants, examines the structural significance of plant chemicals on the inactivation of the rotavirus.

As indicted by Professor Lipson, “natural plant products, in contrast to antibiotics, do not select for resistant mutant bugs in the population. Their consumption, as well as their active compounds such as proanthocyanidins and epigallocatechin gallate, may reduce viral-associated intestinal disease and in turn, impart a significant effect on the health and well-being of millions of infants, children (and to a lesser extent adults) throughout the world.”

Rotavirus is easily treated in places where there is accessible, appropriate medical care. The idea behind Professor Lipson’s work is that treatments from these plants will be cheap and easy to produce and distribute.

Dr. Lipson says that the next step is to begin clinical trials to prove these plant  chemicals help people the same way they worked in a lab and on animals.

Collaborating scientists include Drs. Laina Karthikeyan (NYC Col. of Technology), Oya Bulut (Cesuk Univ., Turkey), Robert E. Gordon (Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr.), research associate Fatma Ozen (Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry), and St. Francis College students Xensila Hyka ‘12, and Georgia L. Sullivan ‘14.

Earlier research has been published in Food and Environmental Virology, Proceedings of the American Chemical Society, Phytomedicine, and other peer reviewed journals. This research looked at the prophylactic use of common store purchased cranberry and grape juices, their purified extracts and epigallocatechin gallate of green tea as ways to inhibit infection of rotavirus (and other viruses) in cell cultures and/or in the mouse model. Results showed that a coating of the viruses and/or blockage of host receptor sites by juices and specific plant extracts generally inhibited or reduced infection.    

The majority of Dr. Lipson and co-workers’ experiments was performed in the laboratories of St. Francis College. This line of research began 13 years ago at St. Francis  and has been supported by the Cranberry Institute, Welch Foods, Inc., St. Francis College, and City University of New York.

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