Japanese scientists develop synthetic fungal compound to activate ‘self-destruction switch’ for cancer cells

According tomedia reports, all cells in the body have limited life span, but those cancerous cells use some “sophisticated tricks” to extend their life span and continue to spread in the body. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a synthetic version of the fungal compound that, by reactivating a missing gene, often causes these evil cells to self-destruct.

As our cells play their part and approach the end of life, they experience an autonomous and orderly death called apoptosis, clearing the way for fresher and healthier cells. But with the help of genetic mutations, cancer cells can avoid this fate and continue to multiply and form tumors.

Targeting this mechanism and initiating apoptosis of cancer cells has been a major concern for researchers in the field, and compounds in olive oil and other techniques that wash them with salt are some of the techniques that have shown promise in the near future. And among a natural compound found in the fungal species Ascochyta, scientists have discovered another exciting possibility.

Japanese scientists develop synthetic fungal compound to activate 'self-destruction switch' for cancer cells

Previous experiments have shown that the compound, called FE399, can trigger apoptosis in vitro cancer cells by restoring the self-destructing gene of the driver-based death process. The compound has shown particular promise in the fight against colorectal cancer, but the complexity of the compound means that large replication of the compound is a daunting task.

Extracting a natural version of FE399 from fungi is not a viable option, creating a major obstacle to the use of this promising cancer compound. But the University of Tokyo team is determined to find a way forward and begin developing a complete synthetic version of the compound, paving the way for mass production. “We wanted to create a leading compound that could treat colon cancer, and our goal was to achieve this through the full synthesis of FE399. Study author Professor Isamu Shiina said.

The team first determined the complex structure of the compound. A lengthy trial-and-error process ensued until the researchers reached a major breakthrough, producing three spots on a board with the same chemical “signature” as FE399. While further tests are needed to study the efficiency of this synthetic version of FE399 in dealing with different types of cancer, the team is “excited” by the findings and sees great potential for mass production.

“We hope that this newly produced compound will provide colorectal cancer patients with an unprecedented treatment option that will improve the overall outcome of the disease and ultimately their quality of life.” Professor Shiina said.

The study was published in the journal European Journal of Organic Chemistry, and the video below is an overview of the study.