Fish oil may hold key to leukaemia cure

December 23rd, 2011 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 23 (IANS) A fish oil compound that targets leukaemia stem cells also holds the key to its cure.

Leukaemia refers to cancer of the blood or bone marrow (which produces blood cells), resulting in abnormal production of leukocytes (white blood cells).

The D12-PGJ3 compound targeted and killed stem cells of a particular class of leukaemia, CML, in mice, said Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of molecular toxicology at the Penn State University.

D12-PGJ3 is produced from Eicosapentaenoic acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oil, said Prabhu, according to a university statement.

Some of leukaemia symptoms are poor blood clotting, impaired immune system, anaemia besides nausea, fever, chills, night sweats, flu-like symptoms and tiredness, the journal Blood reports.

The compound kills cancer-causing stem cells in the mice’s spleen and bone marrow. Specifically, it activates a gene p53 in the leukaemia stem cell that programmes the cell’s own death, the researchers said.

“p53 is a tumour suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability,” Prabhu said.

Killing the stem cells in leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, is important because stem cells can divide and produce more cancer cells, as well as create more stem cells, he added.

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