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Research impact

Healing wounds with native Top End plants

This article appears in: Health, Science
Dr Saki in the laboratory

Growing up in Iran, nanobiotechnologist Dr Elnaz Saki was deeply aware of the historical importance of traditional remedies within her cultural upbringing. These remedies, although lacking scientific confirmation, held an enduring place in the lives of countless generations of Persians.

“Now, here in Australia, I've been captivated by the rich cultural heritage of First Nations remedies,” she says.

“I have been eager to delve into the scientific aspects of these remedies, to comprehend their potential benefits.”

Striving to bridge the gap between traditional wisdom and modern science, Dr Saki chose CDU for her Higher Degree by Research.

Powerful plants

Dr Saki’s research aims to harness the healing power of plants native to Northern Australia.

My research involves working with tiny particle emulsions, called nanoemulsions, to improve the way we use special compounds found in Australian native plants on our skin.

These compounds have wound healing and antibacterial benefits. Dr Saki wanted to figure out how to make them work more efficiently, focusing on two particular plants in her two studies.

The first put a spotlight on Calophyllum inophyllum, a large shade tree often found in Top End gardens and parks due to its termite and cyclone resistance. Calophylluym inophyllum seed oil (CSO) has long been used in traditional medicine for skin diseases and wounds.

Dr Saki explored its healing potential after turning into a nanoemulsion, before studying the impact of adding Tinospora smilacina leaves water extract (TSWE) in her second study.

Tinospora smilacina, commonly known as snake vine, has been used by First Nations people to treat snake bites, headaches and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Both nanoemulsions demonstrated an improvement or equivalent activity for biomedical applications such as wound healing, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects.”

Tiny particles, huge impact

Her research has the potential to improve the quality of life for people dealing with wounds and injuries.

It also speaks to current demand for planet-friendly products and practices.

“The use of natural compounds aligns with sustainable and eco-friendly practices, reducing the reliance on synthetic chemicals,” she says.

I hope my research promotes sustainability in the skincare and healthcare industries by encouraging the responsible use of natural resources.

Dr Saki is interested in exploring the way these unique chemical compounds could contribute to novel therapies for cancers, infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases, and more.

Nanotechnology is a relatively new field, though scientists and researchers like Dr Saki are contributing to its rapid evolvement.

“I've always aspired to become a scientist with the goal of helping people by finding cures for diseases.”

Dr Saki has recently become a member of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, where they will be focusing on the exploration of environmental DNA metabarcoding in the Northern Territory.

CDU is seeking Higher Degree by Research students to take part in research projects just like these. Scholarships are available. Learn more.

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