Organic chemistry is the study of the structure, properties and reactions of chemical compounds that contain carbon.
Geneive Henry, Ph.D., conducts research in the field of organic chemistry. Specifically, she focuses on the evaluation of natural products derived from rare and endemic plants of Pennsylvania, many of which are largely untapped sources of chemicals that potentially could be developed into anticancer, antimicrobial and antioxidant agents. Natural product research has long been regarded as a source of therapeutic drugs and drug precursors. For example, an estimated 60 percent of antitumor and anti-infective agents are natural products or derived from natural products.
Henry’s research is focused on the Hypericum and Carex genera, both of which have several uncharacterized species growing in Pennsylvania. These plant genera are known to produce interesting natural products with anticancer, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. The primary goal of Henry’s research is to purify and chemically characterize new natural products from these plants. These compounds are then evaluated for anticancer activity using a panel of human cancer cell lines including breast, lung, colon, prostate and stomach cells. Compounds are also tested for their ability to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis bacteria, and examined for their antioxidant capacity by measuring their ability to scavenge free radicals.
Students are involved in the extraction, purification and spectroscopic and chemical characterization of natural products. They also do the antibacterial and antioxidant assays.