HYDERABAD: Can a fungal species from Antarctica make chemotherapy for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) safer and less toxic? A study published by researchers from IIT-Hyderabad in Nature, an international multidisciplinary scientific journal, shows promise in this direction. Leukaemia, the most common form of the debilitating disease among children, consumes the lives of thousands of minors annually.
Chemotherapy treatment for all is done using the drug L-Asparaginase which is extracted from E coli and E chrysanthemi, but toxic enzymes such as glutaminase and urease that the bacteria contain can cause pancreatitis, haemostasis abnormalities, affect the central nervous system, cause adverse immunological reactions and also reduce efficacy of chemotherapy. The predicament makes research on strains of bacteria and fungi containing L-Asparaginase important.
Speaking to Express, Dr Devarai Santhosh Kumar, associate professor at the department of chemical engineering, IIT-H, said his acquaintance, Dr Asif Qureshi of the department of civil engineering at IIT-H, who had visited Antarctica for research brought back 33 samples of soil, moss, water and ice. Of the 33 environmental samples, 55 types of fungal species were isolated by Dr Kumar and his team at IIT-H. Out of the 55 species, extraction of L-Asparaginase devoid of toxic enzymes was possible in 28 fungal species. “Of these, five fungus types are promising,” he said.
The fungal species from Antarctica can be grown in tropical countries such as India. Moreover, the fungi can be cultivated using agricultural waste, making the extraction of L-Asparaginase cost-effective. Another benefit is fungi have eukaryotic cells, like humans, which can make chemotherapy more effective.