Lichen could treat tooth decay

A number of compounds isolated from lichen show antibacterial properties with potential applications in oral health care, according to an article published in the January issue of Journal of Natural Products.

The lichen in question, Stereocaulon paschale, generally lives in subarctic and arctic regions of the planet, but can also be found on mountain peaks in the Gaspésie and Charlevoix regions of Quebec, Canada.

When Professor Stéphane Boudreau from the Université Laval brought back specimens from Nunavik, another region in Quebec, phytochemical analyses yielded 11 compounds. Six showed potentially interesting antibacterial activity against pathogens that cause problems such as dental caries and periodontal disease, and two were new molecules that until now have not been isolated anywhere on Earth.

“It’s still too early to know whether the two molecules we’ve discovered have specific properties that could have medical or industrial application,” explained co-author Norman Voyer.

“However, the objective of our study was not to provoke a rush to the molecular treasures northern Quebec species may contain. Rather we wanted to demonstrate that there is a hidden wealth of naturally occurring compounds in northern environments that need to be studied and protected …

“If we do find natural compounds that have useful applications, it will be important to develop methods for synthesising them in the lab so as not to jeopardise the survival of the species that produce them.”

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