With the right genes and lots of sunlight, algae can be manipulated in such a way that they produce enormous amounts of skin cancer medication.
Billions of algae have to produce rare natural substances that can cure skin cancer, among other things.
Some natural substances from medicinal plants can kill cancer cells. One is a so-called terpenoid called ingenol-3-angelate, which works against skin cancer.
This substance only occurs in the resin of the Euphorbia peplus plant and is virtually impossible to produce in large quantities in the lab. That is why scientists call on the help of small, single-celled organisms that live off sunlight and carbon dioxide: algae.
Algae get cancer-killing genes
The scientists have identified the genes of the plant that form ingenol-3-angelate. These genes code for certain enzymes that produce the cancer-killing substance.
By introducing the genes into the algae, the researchers can manipulate the small organisms in such a way that they produce much more of the substance than the original plant can.
More types of cancer can be treated
The successful mass production of skin cancer medication is promising. This method can also be used to make other anticancer medicines that are even rarer and therefore even more valuable.
The researchers now want to develop a method to extract the cancer drug from the algae in such an efficient way that it can be put into use.
Read more: algae fight obesity and malaria
Algae can produce more than cancer medicine. They are also used against malaria and overweight. Here you can read more about this widely applicable technique: