Research

Scientists produce cancer drugs in bacterial cell factories

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A team of international researchers has been able to use bacterial cell factories to produce drugs that can be effective in the treatment of diseases like cancer and psoriasis.

Scientists at Denmark’s Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Biosustainability have developed a new technique for producing a specialised enzyme called P450, which plants use as part of their defence mechanism against a variety of predatory and microbic attacks.

“These powerful compounds can be used as active ingredients in drugs for treating diseases such as cancer and psoriasis,” said the study author Darío Vázquez-Albacete.

The research findings were published recently in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

According to the researchers, plants produce P450 enzymes in very small quantity and the extraction is quite complex. But the new method developed by them allows the proteins from plants that produce P450 to be recognised by the bacterial molecular machinery.

The researchers chose bacterial cells to facilitate large-scale production as “they are capable of growing rapidly in controlled fermenters, allowing us to produce large quantities of the enzymes”.

As part of the research, the scientists created a toolbox of auxiliary DNA sequences that allowed them to express around 50 P450 enzymes from different plants in E. coli.

While some P450 enzymes are used in drugs to treat psoriasis, others are used to produce the cancer drug Taxol.

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