WORCESTER, Mass. Cranberry sauce is not the star of the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, but when it comes to health benefits, the lowly condiment takes center stage. In fact, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have found that compounds in cranberries are able to alter E. coli bacteria, which are responsible for a host of human illnesses (from kidney infections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay), in ways that render them unable to initiate an infection.
The findings are the result of research by Terri Camesano, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI, and a team that includes graduate students Yatao Liu and Paola Pinzon-Arango. Funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Cranberry Institute and Wisconsin Cranberry Board, the work has been reported in a number of publications and presentations, including FAV Health 2007 (The 2nd Annual Symposium on Human Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables), the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in September 2006, and the January/February 2007 issue of the Italian publication AgroFOOD industry hi-tech.
For the first time, the research has begun to reveal the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms that appear to underlie a number of beneficial health effects that have long been ascribed to cranberries and cranberry juicein particular, the ability of cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). The mechanism by which cranberry juice prevents such infections has not been clear, though scientists have suspected that compounds in the juice somehow prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract.
Camesano and her students have used the atomic force microscope and other sophisticated tools to study how a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins or PACs) found primarily in cranberries interact with bacteria at the molecular level. They have found that the compounds prevent E. coli from adhering to cells in the
|Contact: Michael Dorsey|
Worcester Polytechnic Institute