A new technique that uses light to activate chemotherapy drugs in specific cells shows promise as a way to improve the effectiveness of cancer therapies while preventing severe side effects, according to a study published July 9 in Cell.
The so-called photopharmacology approach could be used to treat a broad range of tumors with unprecedented precision simply by making existing cancer drugs sensitive to light–an approach that requires less time and effort compared with traditional drug discovery programs.
“We hope that our compounds will one day be used in medicine to deliver a killer blow to many types of localized cancer tumors, without producing side effects, thus improving on standards of care and also providing chemotherapy options for currently untreatable tumors,” says co-senior author Oliver Thorn-Seshold of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
Some of the most successful and widely used chemotherapeutic drugs are inhibitors that interfere with the function of microtubules–components of the cell’s skeleton that play a key role in cell proliferation, migration, and survival. But because these drugs do not specifically target cancer cells, they also interfere with the function of normal cells and cause severe side effects, such as heart and nerve damage. As a result, microtubule inhibitors are often limited to relatively low doses that do not provide the best therapeutic benefit.
To overcome this challenge, Thorn-Seshold and his collaborators developed a method for optically controlling microtubule inhibitor drugs currently in clinical trials, with high spatial precision. The strategy involves identifying a fixed structural element that is required for a drug’s biological activity, then replacing that element with a flexible hinge that swings open or shut in response to blue light.
“We can then use light to switch the hinged drug on and off, where and when we want, with single-cell precision” says co-senior author Dirk Trauner, also of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. “The upshot is that our compounds retain the powerful anticancer effects of existing microtubule inhibitors, but add the bonus of tissue-specific localization.”
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is a UK Research Council and NDPB and is the largest UK public funder of non-medical bioscience.
It predominantly funds scientific research institutes and university research departments in the UK.
Receiving its funding through the science budget of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), BBSRC’s mission is to “promote and support, by any means, high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training relating to the understanding and exploitation of biological systems”
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“The findings will help us feed a growing global population by speeding up the development of new varieties of wheat able to cope with the challenges faced by farmers worldwide.”
UK, German and US scientists decipher complex genetic code to create new tools for breeders and researchers across the world.
Scientists, including Professor Keith Edwards and Dr Gary Barker from the University of Bristol, have unlocked key components of the genetic code of one of the world’s most important crops. The first analysis of the complex and exceptionally large bread wheat genome, published today in Nature, is a major breakthrough in breeding wheat varieties that are more productive and better able to cope with disease, drought and other stresses that cause crop losses.
The identification of around 96,000 wheat genes, and insights into the links between them, lays strong foundations for accelerating wheat improvement through advanced molecular breeding and genetic engineering. The research contributes to directly improving food security by facilitating new approaches to wheat crop improvement that will accelerate the production of new wheat varieties and stimulate new research. The analysis comes just two years after UK researchers finished generating the sequence.
The project was led by Neil Hall, Mike Bevan, Keith Edwards, Klaus Mayer, from the University of Liverpool, the John Innes Centre, the University of Bristol, and the Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Helmholtz-Zentrum, Munich, respectively, and Anthony Hall at the University of Liverpool. W. Richard McCombie at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Jan Dvorak at the Univerisity of California, Davis, led the US contribution to the project.
The team sifted through vast amounts of DNA sequence data, effectively translating the sequence into something that scientists and plant breeders can use effectively. All of their data and analyses were freely available to users world-wide.
Professor Keith Edwards said: “Since 1980, the rate of increase in wheat yields has declined. Analysis of the wheat genome sequence data provides a new and very powerful foundation for breeding future generations of wheat more quickly and more precisely, to help address this problem.”
The analysis is already being used in research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to introduce a wider range of genetic variation into commercial cultivars and make use of wild wheat’s untapped genetic reservoirs that could help improve tolerance to diseases and the effects of climate change. The wheat breeding community and seed suppliers have welcomed the research.