Feverfew research examines molecular connection

By Diane Palmer

Chin-Fu Chen uses DNA microarray technology to study the molecular interaction of feverfew and white blood cells.Feverfew is an herbal medicine often used to treat migraine headaches but little is known of how it interacts with the body. Clemson University genomics researcher Chin-Fu Chen is seeking to answer those questions, with a grant from Phyto-Technologies, an Iowa-based herbal products company.

Chen is studying the effects of feverfew on white blood cells using new technology that combines functional genomics with bioinformatics. “Traditional methods in molecular biology generally work on a ‘one gene in one experiment’ basis,” said Chen. “That means the output is very limited and it takes a long time to obtain the whole picture of gene function.”

The new technology, called DNA microarray, allows Chen to speed up his research through diagnostic classification and prediction of a sample based on the gene expression profile. Using this technology, Chen can monitor 40,000 genes in the white blood cells at the same time and look for which set of genes would be responding to different abstracts or treatments. These genes will be correlated with the feverfew natural herb abstract.

Chen’s research is in collaboration with Clemson’s Institute for Nutraceutical Research. Other Clemson studies have shown that feverfew has great potential for commercial production in South Carolina. It can be produced using the same equipment and cultural practices as tobacco without the use of pesticides or herbicides.

For information: Chin-Fu Chen, 864-656-0748, cchen@clemson.edu