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IIT researchers discover Antarctic fungi for treating childhood cancer

IIT researchers discover Antarctic fungi for treating childhood cancer

New Delhi, Feb 19 (PTI) Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have isolated Antarctic fungi that contain L-asparaginase, an enzyme-based chemotherapeutic agent used to treat childhood cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The isolation of L-asparaginase containing fungi from extreme environments could lead to development of new chemotherapeutic treatment methods that have fewer side effects than the existing methods."Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood cancer. In ALL, the bone marrow produces an excess of immature lymphocytes, a form of white blood cells. One of the most frequently used chemotherapy drugs to treat ALL is the enzyme L-Asparaginase," said Devarai Santhosh Kumar, Associate Professor, IIT Hyderabad. Kumar, who is the principal investigator, further said, "L-Asparaginase 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 L-Asparaginase enzyme used for chemotherapy is currently derived from commonly found bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Erwinia chrysanthemi. These enzymes are always associated with two other enzymes, glutaminase and urease, both of which cause adverse side effects in patients such as pancreatitis, hemostasis abnormalities, central nervous system dysfunction and immunological reactions," Kumar said.The research team looked at psychrophiles as alternate sources of the enzyme. Psychrophiles are organisms that are capable of growth and reproduction in low temperatures in the range of minus 20 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Celsius, such as those found in Antarctic regions."Fungal species have the ability to mimic the properties of the human cells, as both are eukaryotic in nature, which makes it easier for their usage in treatment of ALL," he added. PTI GJS RCJ