Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bacteria in Oceans Used in the Fight Against Cancer

Posted by Sahan Bandara (41777556)

Scientists at the UCSD’s Scripps Oceanographic Centre for Marine Biotechnology have discovered an ocean-inhabiting culture of bacteria that can be used in the fight against a cancer. Salinispora Tropica was discovered in ocean sediment off the coast of Bahamas in 1991, but scientists have only now unlocked the genomic sequence of the organism, which in turn has revealed its cancer-fighting attributes.

Essentially, Salinispora Tropica’s anti-cancer potency lies in one of the enzymes it produces, known as Salinosporamide A. In a nutshell, Salinosporamide A, like a number of other anti-cancer drugs, fights cancer by inhibiting proteasome activity by modifying the active site of the 20S proteasome.

In the past, scientists have had to artificially incorporate chlorine into a number of anti-cancer drugs to make it more effective. However, this particular enzyme has the natural ability to incorporate chlorine atoms. The chlorine atom in Salinosporamide A makes the enzyme’s binding to its biological target irreversible, which explains why this substance is more effective in fighting cancer than some of the other cancer treatments.

This naturally occurring enzyme is believed to be five hundred times more effective than its chlorine-free contemporary, Salinosporamide B. Consequently, Salinosporamide A is already being clinically trialled for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects plasma cells. The discovery of Salinispora Trpoica may also aid scientists in better understanding evolutionary developments in bacteria and why similar enzymes are activated in dissimilar ways.

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