Want Some Cinnamon with that Cancer?by Gabriela Murphy-Goldberg

From pollution investigation to trying to find the cure for cancer, the variety of research topics at Mount Saint Mary College is immense. This week’s research on campus interview is with Kaeley Miller. Miller is a junior at Mount Saint Mary College who, through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, has been investigating the effects of cinnamaldehyde, which is the essential oil in cinnamon, on cancer cells.

“Why cinnamon?” one might ask. Cinnamon products are actually popular homeopathic medicines. Dr. Suparna Bhalla, Chair of the Natural Science Department, suggested the idea to Miller through discussion of a past project done by an alumn. Miller thought the project seemed promising; thus, she continued the project.

The cell lines used for her experimentation were HeLa cervical cancer cells and L6 rat muscle cells. The L6 cells are the closest one can get to a controlled “normal” type cell during experimentation, and the HeLa cells are the experimental “cancer” cells that Kaeley Miller is trying to destroy; however, as with most research, obstacles do come about. “I had many difficulties in getting certain techniques and procedures to work consistently. I just kept trying it over or researching different ways to accomplish something,” says Miller.

Despite her obstacles, Miller has continued with the project throughout the school year. Miller notes that the research is important because it helps in observing the effects that the cinnamaldehyde has on both cell types.

If the cinnamaldehyde ends up destroying the L6 (“normal”) cells and the HeLa (cancer) cells, then this treatment is not worth pursuing. These observations help make sure that people using it are not going to experience more risks than benefits at least at the cellular level.

Miller goes on to comment that “so many discoveries have come about via the same process as I’m doing, and the huge impacts they’ve had [are immeasurable].” As with most college based research, it is interesting to think that what one does on campus is parallel to what a paid professional does outside of the world of academia. Tune in next time for more on campus research!