Date of Graduation

Fall 2011


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Paul Durham


β-sitosterol, MKP-1, IL-10, migraine, TMJD, trigeminal, natural products, inflammation

Subject Categories



Previous results from in vitro and in vivo studies in our laboratory provided evidence that cocoa beans contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can repress activation of trigeminal nerves. These results led me to hypothesize that a novel compound could be isolated from cocoa beans to treat inflammatory disorders such as migraine and temporomandibular joint disorder. In my study, I was able to isolate and characterize an anti-inflammatory compound from cocoa beans by screening fractions obtained from column chromatography for expression of MKP-1 in trigeminal cultures. The active compound was identified as β-sitosterol based on NMR and HPLC/MS/MS data. The anti-inflammatory mediators MKP-1 and IL-10 were up-regulated in trigeminal neurons in a concentration-dependent manner by β-sitosterol. A somewhat surprising finding from my study was that the active compound β-sitosterol functioned by a similar mechanism as that of the commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory steroid drug dexamethasone. Based on results from my study, I propose that the natural product, β-sitosterol, may be useful as a novel treatment of inflammatory diseases such as migraine and temporomandibular joint disorders.


© Jeffrey J. Hirst

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