Scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) were able to kill cancer cells in vitro using a metabolite extracted from a fruit named scientifically Stenocereus griseus H, and commonly known as pitaya or dragon fruit.
The researchers, from the IPN National School of Biological Sciences (ENCB), said in a statement that the finding opens the door for further research for the development of a new drug to help fighting cancer.
Dr. Rafael Silva Torres, project leader, said that the number of lung cancer cases has increased in several countries as China, Korea, Cuba and Mexico. He explained that the lung’s physiology makes difficult to diagnose lung cancer in early stages, and the number of drugs to treat the disease are limited. For this reasons, he said that it is necessary the commitment to develop new treatments.
Researcher Ana Laura Luna Torres, of the IPN National School of Medicine and Homeopathy, led the anti-tumor tests of different natural compounds. After studying each one, she reported that pitaya was the food with greater antitumor activity.
She explained that it is difficult to find natural or synthetic substances with good effect against cancer cells, since these biological units have a very complex biochemical structure that makes them resistant to many drugs.
The researchers obtained a crude extract from the pulp and peel of the fruit, which was left to macerate for a week in ethanol, so it could release its secondary metabolites. Then the compound was filtered and the alcohol evaporated to obtain an extract.
Lazaro Ramirez, a doctorate student who participates in the project, said that after conducting multiple trials with the mixture of methanol and isopropyl alcohol in various concentrations, they found the appropriate formulation to separate the metabolites using the technique called chromatography.
To isolate from the preparation only the compound with antitumor activity, the young researcher added, they used a more specific technique of thin layer chromatography.
In order to evaluate the anticancer activity of the metabolite, researchers cultured A-549 cell lines of lung cancer in a nutrient medium at 37 degrees Celsius.
After performing this procedure, they applied the compound at different concentrations; and by using a photo shoot in the microscope, they found that cancer cell death occurred mostly between 6 and 12 hours after having added the metabolite.
Once they found the metabolite’s action times, the scientists studied the cytotoxicity of compound and cell viability – identification of the percentage of live and dead cancer cells based on a complete sample.
Francisco Diaz Cedillo, ENCB specialist in organic chemistry, determined the chemical composition of the isolated compound. He studied the sequence in which its chemical elements are linked, and indicated the orientation of the substituents of the molecule in space.
Such studies allow having a clear idea of how to characterize the molecule, i.e. knowing what it is made of, its structure, and its chemical properties, in order to be able to synthesize later.
Given these findings, the project leader said they will seek national and international support to encourage further progress on the project and initiate studies with animal models.
Source: Agencia ID