Arsenic for better drugs and cleaner crops

June 25, 2012

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

Recommended for you

Drug for spinal muscular atrophy prompts ethical dilemmas, bioethicists say

December 11, 2017
When the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug for people with spinal muscular atrophy a year ago, clinicians finally had hope for improving the lives of patients with the rare debilitating muscular disease. ...

FDA's program to speed up drug approval shaved nearly a year off the process

December 7, 2017
Speeding the pace at which potentially lifesaving drugs are brought to market was a rallying cry for Donald Trump as a candidate, and is a stated priority of his Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. ...

Dangers of commonly prescribed painkillers highlighted in study

December 6, 2017
Commonly prescribed painkillers need to be given for shorter periods of time to reduce the risk of obesity and sleep deprivation, a new study has revealed.

Viagra goes generic: Pfizer to launch own little white pill

December 6, 2017
The little blue pill that's helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first ...

Surgery-related opioid doses can drop dramatically without affecting patients' pain

December 6, 2017
Some surgeons might be able to prescribe a third of opioid painkiller pills that they currently give patients, and not affect their level of post-surgery pain control, a new study suggests.

Four-fold jump in deaths in opioid-driven hospitalizations

December 4, 2017
People who end up in the hospital due to an opioid-related condition are four times more likely to die now than they were in 2000, according to research led by Harvard Medical School and published in the December issue of ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.