They identify an anticancer pigment in the salt flats of Santa Pola

Las halophilic archaea or haloarchaea are microorganisms that only survive in extremely saline environments –such as Santa Pola salt flats (Alicante)– and produce a pigment that helps them protect themselves from the sun and that has anticancer propertiesas verified by a team of Spanish scientists after testing it in various types of breast cancer.

The Applied Biochemistry research group of the University of Alicante in collaboration with researchers from the Dr. Balmis General University Hospital of Alicante (HGUDB) and the Alicante Health and Biomedical Research Institute (ISABIAL) has identified the anticancer capacity of this pigment present in the Santa Pola salt flats. The finding has been published in Nature Scientific Report.

The doctoral thesis of Michaela Giani helped to identify this antitumor substance, affirms Rosa María Martínez, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and director of the group, who explained that, in it, the already doctor demonstrated through tests in vitro the pigment antioxidant activity and its effect on enzymes (biocatalysts) involved in diseases such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

“In certain doses, the pigment does not cause any harmful effect on the healthy cell, but it does limit the growth capacity of the neoplastic cells”

“After publishing these results, it was then that we considered what would happen if we added the pigment to the cancer cells based on the hypothesis that, being a pigment with an antioxidant activity almost 300 times higher than that of other antioxidants, it could limit the ability of these cells to grow and reproduce”, explains the researcher.

Cancer therapies based on natural compounds

In this second phase, the research group has worked in collaboration with the doctor Gloria PeiróHGUDB pathologist and professor in the UA Department of Biotechnology, and Yoel Genaro Montoyo-Pujol, PhD in Experimental and Biosanitary Sciences and also a researcher at the UA, both belonging to the ISABIAL breast cancer and immunology research group. This collaboration has allowed us to verify in vitro the effect of this pigment in cell lines representative of different intrinsic phenotypes of breast cancer and a line of healthy breast tissue.

“And we have reached the conclusion that, at certain doses, the pigment does not cause any harmful effect on the healthy cell, but it does limit the growth capacity of the neoplastic cells,” says Martínez, who points out that this finding “opens up a door to the biomedicineto the design of new strategies to fight cancer based on the use of natural compoundswhich are not harmful to the body.

Halophilic archaea are extremophile microorganisms that need very high salinity conditions to survive, and for this reason they are found mainly in coastal salt flats, inland salt flats or hyper-salt lakes. These microorganisms synthesize carotenoid pigments rare C50 named bacteriorruberina (BR) and its derivatives monoanhydrobacterioruberin (MABR) and bisanhydrobacterioruberin (BABR).

The researcher explained that after the discovery several phases must be carried out and the first will be to expand the study with different cell lines from other types of tumors, to continue with the tests on tissue samples from biopsies or surgical specimens, with the aim of designing possible treatment protocols using this pigmentand then study its safety and efficacy in animals before reaching its clinical use in patients.

Fuente: University of Alicante


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