The University of Alicante’s Applied Biochemistry Research Group – in collaboration with researchers from Alicante University Hospital Dr. Palmes (HGUDB) and the Alicante Institute of Health and Biomedical Research (ISABIAL) – has identified the anti-cancer potential of a tincture found in the Santa Paula salt flats. This dye is produced by certain microorganisms, “haloarchaea,” in order to protect itself from the sun’s rays, and its antitumor ability has been tested in several types of breast cancer.
This is an important finding, which was published in the journal Rosa Maria Martinez, professor of biology and group director Scientific reports, began developing Michaela Gianni’s Ph.D. thesis. There, it showed – through in vitro tests – the antioxidant activity of the dye and its effect on enzymes (biocatalysts) that are involved in diseases such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome such as diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.
After announcing these results, they then wondered what would happen if they added the dye to the cancer cells, based on the hypothesis that the dye, which has antioxidant activity about 300 times higher than other antioxidants, could limit the ability of these cells to grow and multiply. As explained by the researcher.
In this second phase, the research group worked in collaboration with Dr. in Experimental and Biohealth Sciences and a researcher also at UA, both of whom are affiliated with the Breast Cancer and Immunology Research Group at ISABIAL.
Thanks to this collaboration, the effect of this pigment can be tested in vitro in cell lines representing different breast cancer phenotypes and a line of healthy breast tissue. According to Martinez, they came to the conclusion that, at certain doses, the dye does not cause any harmful effect on healthy cells, but rather limits the ability of tumor cells to grow. And she stressed that this discovery opens the door for biomedicine, to design new strategies to combat cancer based on the use of natural compounds that are not harmful to the body.
The halophilic archaea are microscopic, hypersaline organisms that require a hypersaline environment to thrive, so they are primarily found in coastal salt marshes, inland salt marshes, or hypersaline lakes. These microorganisms synthesize rare C50 carotenoid pigments called bacteriorupurine (BR) and its derivatives monohydrobacteriorupurine (MABR) and bisanhydrobacteriorupurine (BABR).
Based on this discovery, as the researcher indicated, there are several stages that must be developed, starting with expanding the study with different cell lines for other types of tumors, to continue testing on tissue samples from biopsies or surgical samples, in order to design possible treatment protocols using this dye, and then move on to Animal studies prior to reaching clinical use in patients.
Michaela Gianni et al., Halloric carotenoids exert an in vitro antiproliferative effect on human breast cancer cell lines, Scientific reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-34419-x
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