‘Polar micro-organisms may provide clues to cancer treatment’

Kolkata, Oct 6 (IANS) Micro-organisms that thrive in the harsh environs of the polar regions may open up new avenues for cancer treatment, a scientist said on Tuesday.

Cryobiologist Shiv Mohan Singh, a member of India’s first expedition to the Arctic in 2007, said organisms that survive in extreme climatic conditions such as the polar regions synthesise molecules that help them adapt.

“Useful substances such as antioxidant compounds, cold tolerant enzymes may be applied in healthcare, agriculture and industry,” Singh, a senior scientist at the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research in Goa, told IANS.

One such substance called ‘thelebolan’ has been extracted from an Antarctic fungus by a team of scientists including Singh and collaborator Satyahari Dey, of the Indian Institute Of Technology, Kharagpur.

Singh said thelebolan has potential anti-cancer properties since it could stall tumour cell growth and induce cell death in cancer cell lines.

Similarly, bacteria from Arctic glaciers have been found to produce anti-freeze proteins as their own survival mechanism. The proteins could be applied in the cryo preservation of blood and organs, in the food industry, or to prevent the formation of plugs in oil and gas pipelines.

“There is a lot of scope from bio-prospecting in the polar regions and we have to tap the region’s potential since incidence of cancer has increased and spectrum of cancer-prone organs is changing each year,” he added.

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