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Elizabeth Rieger

A Plant Based Method to Decrease Pro-inflammatory Cytokine Production in Response to Cytotoxic Volatile Organic Compounds: Implications for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases


Exposure to cytotoxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can cause both short and longterm adverse health effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate the ability of the Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant) to decrease the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), a precursor to respiratory inflammation, by VOCs. Several VOCs, including methanol, ethyl acetate, acetone, and formaldehyde, were isolated using a Vernier© gas chromatograph. Then, the absorption of these compounds by Chlorophytum comosum was measured by determining their decrease in mass over time in closed systems. On average, VOCs decreased by 78.3% in three days in bell jars with plants versus 23.1% in control jars with no plant (two sample t-test (p < 0.001)). Next, the capability of spider plant extract to decrease formaldehyde induced mRNA expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα in U937 cells (a human cell line established from a histiocytic lymphoma) was investigated. Quantification of TNFα transcript levels utilizing RT-PCR showed that spider plant compounds exhibited efficacy in decreasing TNFα expression by 38.2% in cells exposed to formaldehyde (two sample t-test (p < 0.001)). A practical application of this research is in the prevention of disease, especially in populations who have increased incidence of asthma and respiratory diseases


Keywords: Volatile organic compounds; Asthma; Spider plant; Formaldehyde; Phytoremediation; Pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α.