Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, researchers have isolated Antarctic fungi that contains a chemical agent which could be used to fight the most common type of childhood cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, with fewer side effects. The IIT researchers worked with scientists from the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, to discover L-asparaginase, an enzyme-based chemotherapeutic agent used to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). 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.
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.
The researchers write in their Nature Scientific Reports paper that “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 the treatment of ALL”.
The IIT Hyderabad team of researchers included Dr. Devarai Santhosh Kumar, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Asif Qureshi, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, along with their research students Anup Ashok, Kruthi Doriya, and Jyothi Vithal Rao. The NCPOR team included Dr. Anoop Kumar Tiwari.