Arsenic for better drugs and cleaner crops

Research carried out at the University of Gothenburg may lead to more effective arsenic-containing drugs. The results may also lead to more resistant plants, and crops with a limited absorption and storage of arsenic.

Even though is toxic for many organs in the human body, it is used in the treatment of some forms of cancer, and it is an active component of drugs against .

Healing arsenic

Arsenic is used in therapeutic medicine, but we know relatively little about the mechanisms by which cells develop resistance to arsenic, which may lead to a lower .

Proteins control cellular processes

Scientist Doryaneh Ahmadpour at the Department of Chemistry and , University of Gothenburg, has carried out experiments with common baker's yeast, in order to find out how inflow and outflow take place in cells.

"The knowledge we obtain from determining these mechanisms in can be subsequently used in the long term to produce more effective drugs containing arsenic. A membrane protein known as Fps1 is particularly interesting. This protein transports the trivalent form of arsenic (arsenite) into and out from the cell," says Doryaneh Ahmadpour.

She has worked with scientist Michael Thorsen to show how the Fps1 protein is regulated and how the inflow into the cell of arsenic is influenced by another protein, Hog1.

The results suggest that a reduction in the activity of Hog1 is an effective way of increasing the ability of the cell to absorb arsenic. This may make the cell more sensitive to arsenic and thus give more effective treatment.

Resistance to arsenic can be increased in a similar manner, by increasing the activity of Hog1, which reduces the inflow of arsenic into the cells.

"We have shown also that a protein known as Slt2 regulates the outflow of arsenic from the cell, and increases the resistance of the cell to arsenic. It is possible, in the same way, to regulate the cellular resistance against arsenic by controlling the activity of Slt2."

Arsenic as a problem

Arsenic is a toxic metalloid that is naturally found in earth crust. It can be leached out by water or spread by industrial activity.

Arsenic is a global problem due to the increasing contamination of water, soil and crops, not only in the industrialized world but also in developing countries.

"High levels of arsenic in groundwater can lead to humans being exposed to toxic levels in food and water. This affects mainly people in regions in which the crops are watered with arsenic-contaminated water, leading to arsenic being stored in the plants."

Resistant crops

Increased knowledge about arsenic can be used to produce plants with a high absorption, and these can be used to clean contaminated land. The knowledge can also be used to produce food crops, known as "safe crops", with a limited and storage of arsenic.

Related Stories

Arsenic and new rice

Jun 10, 2008

Amid recent reports of dangerous levels of arsenic being found in some baby rice products, scientists have found a protein in plants that could help to reduce the toxic content of crops grown in environments with high levels ...

Water-stingy agriculture reduces arsenic in rice markedly

Jul 28, 2008

A new farming method first developed to conserve precious irrigation water may have the added benefit of producing rice containing much less arsenic than rice grown using traditional rice-farming methods, researchers in the ...

Study: Crystal removes arsenic cheaply

Nov 10, 2006

A common rust-like crystal may offer an inexpensive way to rid drinking water of hazardous levels of arsenic, Rice University researchers in Houston said.

Recommended for you

WHO: Millions of Ebola vaccine doses ready in 2015

Oct 24, 2014

The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March.

Added benefit of vedolizumab is not proven

Oct 23, 2014

Vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio) has been approved since May 2014 for patients with moderately to severely active Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the Act on the Reform of the ...

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

Oct 22, 2014

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

User comments