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Reducting Sugars: Using Over-The-Counter Glucosamine Supplements to Alter Bacterial DNA

Faculty Supervisor:
Gary Histand
Year of Project Completion:
John Goering


Reducing sugars are a unique class of carbohydrates that are capable of being oxidized in chemical reactions, thus causing other substances to be reduced. Past research has shown that these sugars are capable of reacting with nucleic acids, particularly in the form of bacterial plasmid DNA, to initiate chemical changes such as nicks and cuts in the DNA strands. The research described in this paper specifically addresses the affects of a particular sugar, glucosamine, on E. coli plasmid DNA. It was found that not only can pure laboratory-grade glucosamine initiate these changes, but also nutritional supplements intended to enhance joint health, which contain glucosamine as a key ingredient. In addition, it is shown that buffers present in the reducing sugar-DNA reaction solution can potentially inhibit some DNA alteration. The effects of two different pH buffers, tris and phosphate, are compared. Tris buffer, which acts as a free-radical inhibitor, is found to inhibit DNA damage to a small degree.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.