Peptide path to greener cancer treatments

Woman getting cancer treatment with doctor. | Newsreel
New research has uncovered a way to create greener cancer treatments. | Photo: Fat Camera (iStock)

Greener cancer treatments are a step closer thanks to new research out of the United Kingdom.

With most current processes involving the use of toxic chemicals, scientists from The University of Manchester have uncovered a more efficient and sustainable way to make peptide-based medicines.

Professor Jason Micklefield said peptides were made up of small chains of amino acids, which were also the building blocks of proteins.

Professor Micklefield said they played a crucial role in human bodies and were used in many medicines to fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and infections.

He said they were also used as vaccines, nanomaterials and in many other applications.

“However, making peptides in the lab is currently a complicated process involving chemical synthesis, which produces a lot of harmful waste that is damaging to the environment.”

Professor Micklefield said his team had discovered a new family of ligase enzymes – a type of molecular glue that can help assemble short peptide sequences more simply and robustly, yielding significantly higher quantities of peptides compared to conventional methods.

“The breakthrough could revolutionise the production of treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses, offering a more effective and environmentally friendly method of production.”

He said for many years, scientists had been working on new ways to produce peptides.

“Most existing techniques rely on complex and heavily protected amino acid precursors, toxic chemical reagents, and harmful volatile organic solvents, generating large amounts of hazardous waste.

“The current methods also incur high costs, and are difficult to scale up, resulting in limited and expensive supplies of important peptide medicines.”

He said the new study provided a blueprint for how peptides, including important medicines, could be made in the future.

Read the full study.