Category Archives: Traditional Chemistry

Madagascar periwinkle research exposes pathway to cancer-fighting drugs

Plant scientists have taken the crucial last steps in a 60-year quest to unravel the complex chemistry of Madagascar periwinkle in a breakthrough that opens up the potential for rapid synthesis of cancer-fighting compounds. The last missing genes in the genome of the periwinkle are devoted to building the chemical vinblastine. This valuable natural product has been used as an anti-cancer drug .

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A potent inhibitor of cell division and used against lymphomas and testicular, breast, bladder and lung cancers, it is found in the leaves of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). The complex chemical mechanisms the periwinkle uses in the production of vinblastine have not been fully understood. Vinblastine is one of the of the most structurally complex medicinally active natural products in plants. This new study builds on the work of numerous other research groups around the world who contributed to the elucidation of the vinblastine pathway over the years.

Having assembled the genetic pathway and the formidable chemical structures, the team are now in a position to use the information to create more compounds much more quickly using synthetic biology techniques. They employed modern sequencing and genomic techniques along with some traditional chemistry relying on a blend of intuition and some literature dating back to the 1960s and 70s.In total the team counted 31 steps in the chemical chain from the primary chemical precursor to the final product, vinblastine.

In total counted 31 steps in the chemical chain from the primary chemical precursor to the final product, vinblastine. One molecule in the chain so volatile.Mainly Biosynthesis of the Vinblastine and Vincristine Precursors, Caranthine and Tabersonine are used as Cancer fighting drug.