Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad working with scientists from the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, have isolated Antarctic fungi that contain L-asparaginase, an enzyme-based chemotherapeutic agent used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). ALL is the most common childhood cancer.
It occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA. A press release said here Tuesday that the isolation of L-asparaginase containing fungi from extreme environments could lead to the development of new chemotherapeutic treatment methods that have fewer side- effects than the existing methods.
One of the most frequently used chemotherapy drugs to treat ALL is the enzyme L-asparaginase which reduces the supply of asparagine, an amino acid that is essential for the synthesis of protein, to cancer cells. This prevents the growth and proliferation of the malignant cells, the release said.
On the need to discover other sources of pure L-asparaginase, Dr Devarai Santhosh Kumar, who is the principal investigator, said, "Extensive purification steps are necessary before L-asparaginase derived from E.Coli and E.Chrysanthemi is used as a drug to treat ALL." This increases the cost of the drug, the release said. The L-asparaginase enzyme used for chemotherapy is currently derived from commonly found bacteria such asescherichia coli and erwinia chrysanthemi.
These enzymes are always associated with two other enzymes - glutaminase and urease - both of which cause adverse side-effects such as pancreatitis, hemostasis abnormalities, central nervous system dysfunction and immunological reactions, the release said. The research team looked at psychrophiles as alternative sources of the enzyme. Psychrophiles are organisms that are capable of growth and reproduction in low temperatures in the range of -20C to +10C, such as those found in Antarctic regions, it said.
(With inputs from agencies.)