Tuesday August 14, 2018

Indian-origin scientist Ravi Majeti, turns cancer cells into harmless cells

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By Anurag Paul

An Indian-origin researcher at the Stanford University in the US has found a method that can cause dangerous leukemia cells to mature into harmless immune cells known as macrophages.

Assistant professor of medicine Ravi Majeti made the key observation after collecting leukemia cells from a patient and trying to keep the cells alive in a culture plate.

During the study, Majeti and post-doctoral scholar Scott McClellan found that some of the cancer cells in culture were changing shape and size into what looked like macrophages.

The team confirmed that the methods shown to have altered the destiny of the mouse progenitor cells years ago could be used to transform these human cancer cells into macrophages which can engulf and digest cancer cells and pathogens.

“We were giving everything at them to help them hold out,” said Majeti in a report that appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. B-cell leukemia cells are in many ways progenitor cells that are forced to stay in an immature state.

B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a variation called the Philadelphia chromosome is a especially aggressive cancer with poor results.

“So finding potential treatments is especially exciting,” Majeti added.

Majeti and his colleagues have some reason to hope that when the cancer cells become macrophages, they will not only be neutralized but may actually assist in fighting the cancer.

“Because the macrophage cells came from the cancer cells, they will already carry with them the chemical signals that will distinguish the cancer cells, causing an immune attack against the cancer more likely,” Majeti explained.

The researchers’ next steps would be to find out if they can discover a drug that will incite the same reaction and that could function as the groundwork for a therapy for the leukemia.

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Researchers Unveil the Power of Turmeric in Fighting Cancer

Curcumin is also known to exhibit anti-cancer properties, but its poor solubility in water had impeded curcumin's clinical application in cancer

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Indian-American researchers unleash turmeric's power to fight cancer. Pixabay

A team of Indian-American researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City, has used an ingenious process to enable curcumin to kill cancer cells.

Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric (haldi), the ubiquitous kitchen spice that gives curry its yellow color. Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb because of its powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant property.

Curcumin is also known to exhibit anti-cancer properties, but its poor solubility in water had impeded curcumin’s clinical application in cancer. A drug needs to be soluble in water as otherwise it will not flow through the bloodstream.

Despite decades of research, the development of efficient strategies that can effectively deliver poorly water-soluble curcumin to cancer cells had remained a challenge.

A team headed by Dipanjan Pan, associate professor of bioengineering at UIUC, has now found a way out.

“Curcumin’s medicinal benefit can be fully appreciated if its solubility issue is resolved,” Pan told this correspondent in an e-mail.

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Indian-American researchers unleash turmeric’s power to fight cancer. Pixabay

Pan’s laboratory collaborated with Peter Stang at the University of Utah on ways to be able to render curcumin soluble, deliver it to infected tumors and kill the cancer cells.

Because platinum is a commonly used cancer therapeutic agent in the clinic, the researchers decided to experiment with a drug consisting of a combination of platinum and curcumin.

“It is a combination of clever chemistry and nano-precipitation utilising host guest chemistry,” Pan explained. “The sophisticated chemistry leads to self-assembled hierarchical structure that drives the solubility of curcumin and simultaneously delivers an additional anticancer agent, i.e. platinum. The combined therapeutic effect — of curcumin and platinum — is lethal for the cancer cells.”

The team has reported its work in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” in the US.

According to their report, the metallocyclic complex created using platinum “not only enabled curcumin’s solubility, but proved to be 100 times more effective in treating various cancer types such as melanoma and breast cancer cells than using curcumin and platinum agents separately”.

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“Our results demonstrate that curcumin works completely in sync with platinum and exerts synergistic effect to show remarkable anticancer properties,” says the report. “The platinum-curcumin combination kills the cells by fragmenting its DNA.”

“Extensive animal studies are in progress in my laboratory, including in rodents and pigs,” Pan said. His team also hopes to prove that this method will be effective in killing cancer stem cells — the birth place of cancer cells — thereby preventing the recurrence of cancer.

Pan’s team included post-doctoral researcher Santosh Misra at UIUC, and Sougata Datta, Manik Lal Saha, Nabajit Lahiri, Janis Louie, and Peter J. Stang from the University of Utah. (IANS)