Northern Lichen May Fight Caries and Gum Disease

Dentistry Today
Photo by Saxifraga-Willem van Kruijsbergen.


Photo by Saxifraga-Willem van Kruijsbergen.

Researchers from Université Laval have isolated 6 compounds with antibacterial properties that may potentially help in the fight against caries and periodontal disease from a species of lichen growing in northern Quebec. The lichen, Stereocaulon paschale, generally lives in the subarctic and arctic regions, but it can be found on the mountain peaks of the Gaspésie and Charlevoiz regions of Canada as well.

“Lichens in the north are exposed to unique environmental stresses,” said Normand Voyer, a chemist and professor with the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, as well as the lead author of the study. “We thought that these species might produce special molecules to cope with these very rugged conditions.”

Photochemical analyses identified 11 compounds, 2 of which were new molecules that had never before been isolated anywhere on Earth. The 9 other compounds had already been identified in other living organisms. Yet tests conducted on these compounds revealed that 6 of them show potentially interesting antibacterial activity against Porphyromonas gingivalis and Streptococcus mutans, which cause dental caries and periodontal disease.

“Numerous phytochemical studies have been carried out in tropical forests, but the north remains largely unexplored. There are surely many other northern species that, like S paschale, contain unique molecules,” said Voyer. “If we do find natural compounds that have useful applications, it will be important to develop methods for synthesizing them in the lab so as not to jeopardize the survival of the species that produce them.”

The study, “Dibenzofurans and Pseudodepsidones from the Lichen Stereocaulon paschale Collected in Northern Quebec,” was published by the Journal of Natural Products.

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