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Researchers Engineer Plant Cells to Produce Cancer Drug


Why is it in the news?

  • Researchers at Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Madras and Mandi have achieved metabolic engineering of plant cells to enhance the production of the anti-cancer drug, camptothecin (CPT).
  • Camptothecin is traditionally obtained from Nathapodytes nimmoniana, a native and endangered plant. This plant has seen a 20% decline in the past decade, leading to its listing on the IUCN red list.

More about the news

  • Researchers at IIT Madras’s Plant Cell Technology Lab developed a genome-scale metabolic model for N. Nimmoniana plant cells using computational tools. The model was designed to understand and manipulate the metabolic processes within plant cells.
  • Plant cultures were grown in the laboratory, and cells were extracted. These plant cells were then genetically engineered to enhance the production of camptothecin.
  • In 2021, IIT Madras researchers identified a microbe as a sustainable and highly productive alternative source for camptothecin.
  • The engineered plant cells provide an alternative source for camptothecin, contributing to the production of crucial cancer-treating drugs.
  • The technology used for model-based rational metabolic engineering of plant cells can be adapted for enhancing the production of various high-value phytochemicals derived from plants.
  • By offering a laboratory-based alternative for drug production, the research helps in conserving natural resources and reduces dependency on endangered plant species.
About Camptothecin (CPT)

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Camptothecin is a vital anti-cancer drug lead molecule used in the production of drugs like Topotecan and Irinotecan.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Traditionally extracted from plants like Camptotheca acuminata (native to Eastern Asia) and Nothapodytes nimmoniana (native to India).

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Chinese variety of the plant is critically endangered, and the Indian variety has seen a significant population decline.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Chinese variety has only 4,000 species remaining, and the Indian variety, native to the Western Ghats, has experienced a 20% decline in the last decade.

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