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Researchers Engineer Plant Cells to Produce Cancer Drug

By Amigos IAS

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)

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

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

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

·       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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