AFTER the draining final examinations of graduating students, the best and the brightest surface. For those who survived the dreaded academic thesis, the world is their stage now. The Varsitarian toasts two recipients of the best thesis award from the College of Science and the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Webcampus

Recent surveys have shown that universities in the Philippines are lagging behind their Asian counterparts and the top universities in the world. This is probably due to the traditional approach used in the teaching and learning processes and the inadequacy of Information Technology (IT) resources.

In their undergraduate thesis “Webcampus,” Information Management seniors Julie Anne Lopez, Shandell Poblete, Christopher Sahagun, and Jerome Dashiel Tolentino developed an online educational system that aims to integrate distance electronic learning to allow a person with Internet connection to take the courses provided in the system, anywhere and anytime. Their study was declared the best thesis by the Department of Information and Computer Studies during the College of Science Week last February.

According to Sahagun, since e-learning has expanded tremendously, Webcampus was conceptualized to supplement traditional learning and teaching methods for computer proficiency.

Sahagun said the system, a self-paced and interactive educational system, has a lot to offer students. It consists of two prototype modules: the website, and a downloadable Windows application program to provide the registered user access to its course modules.

An online IT training center for local students, Webcampus includes all processes from registration to content (course lectures and questions) management and student evaluation. The administrator module includes course, subject and lesson operations such as the creation and modification of the courses, subjects, lessons, test questions, the generation of performance reports and the security functions involved.

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Sahagun explained that the primary advantage of Webcampus is the convenience of offering IT education through a self-paced system. He said Webcampus is also cost-efficient since its users only need Internet connection; thus, saving tuition and travel expenses for IT certification equivalent to a non-degree course. The administrator monitors the performance of the registered user and confers certification after the course or program has been passed.

Although the study only offers a prototype for IT subjects, Sahagun said that further developments for the system would eventually offer multi-disciplinary courses with the basic features already applicable.

A registered user can utilize the functions of Webcampus such as the bulletin board, post-it (similar to a typical forum board and shoutbox) and a print-friendly database of academic records for tracing improvement. It employs a password check to ensure security and to prevent malicious attempts of non-registered users against the system.

The use of e-learning will result in the removal of time and place constraints, with instructions available when and where the learner wants it.

Quercetin

Albert Einstein once said, “Any intelligent person can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

This holds true for Pharmacy seniors Katrina Bacorro, Joyceanne Bagtas, Donalyn Balda, Stephanie Callang, Rochelle Chua, Ria Angela Garcia, Jasmine Lacorte, and Katrina Mauricio.

Titled, “Determination of the gastric side effects of quercetin in Swiss mice,” their thesis was carried out using the pure substance quercetin, a colorless crystalline compound, instead of working on plant extracts which students usually use.

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“Mostly kasi ang tina-tackle nila ay iyung established effect na ng isang plant, kami nag-venture out,” Mauricio said.

Theirs was declared the best thesis in the Faculty of Pharmacy. It also won second place in the National Pharmacy Week Research-Poster Presentation contest at Adamson University last December.

Quercetin, a pale yellow pigment, acts as an anti-oxidant and has inhibitory effects on inflammation-causing enzymes like cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase.

The anti-oxidant characteristic of quercetin contributes to its anti-inflammatory activity. It is commonly found in citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, grapes, blueberries, tea, and red wine.

On the other hand, aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) was used as the control drug, being the most widely used anti-inflammatory drug in the market.

Classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Mauricio said aspirin and quercetin have similar effects and are prescribed to patients with inflammatory disorders, rheumatism, gout, dysmenorrhea, neoplastic diseases, and headaches.

However, these drugs’ side effects include ulcer or the thinning of the gastric mucosa, heartburn, upset stomach, drowsiness, nausea, and high blood pressure. Caution must be considered in taking these drugs.

Asst. Prof. Jovencio Apostol, the group’s thesis adviser, said an outstanding factor of the research was the method it used.

“Instead of following the book, we used practical reasoning and developed a better and easier method,” Bagtas said.

Since quercetin from Hongkong-based Sigma-Aldrich Laboratory is not available in the Philippines, the group obtained the drug through the UST Purchasing Department.

The group conducted a pharmacological test on Swiss mice for 10 days. The carrageenan-induced edema model was used to induce inflammation on the test animals.

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Aspirin and quercetin were given orally to treat the inflammation.

They determined the gastric side effects by hematocrit observation of stool for any color change test to determine the percentage of the volume of red blood cells; test for melena formation (dark stool formed with decayed blood, indicating bleeding); and histopathologic analysis of the stomach (the isolation of the test animal’s stomach which is studied under the microscope for erosions or ulceration).

The results showed that both drugs manifest gastric side effects. However, quercetin has less gastric side effects than aspirin, as was proven in succeeding tests.

The aspirin-treated specimens were found to have ulcerations, erosions, and abscesses. In contrast, the quercetin group manifested only thinning of the gastric mucosa, but there were no traces of ulcerations and erosions.

Aside from their main objectives, Mauricio and Bagtas said the study was done to improve patient compliance.

“We want the patient to have a choice. Since aspirin has great adverse effects, you still have to drink an anti-ulcer medicine, if you will use quercetin, you will no longer have to buy a drug for ulcer,” Bagtas said.

The study was exhibited at the Biology Teachers Convention at Adamson University on April 21 to 25.

The thesis is a groundbreaking study in the determination of the adverse effects of drugs available in the country. It is hoped that it would help scientists to produce drugs with lesser side effects and improve patient compliance in taking medications such as NSAIDs. Brix Gil M. Bayuga and John Ferdinand T. Buen

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