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The latest research on the anti-cancer activity of compounds extracted from slime molds

The latest research on the anti-cancer activity of compounds extracted from slime molds

When it comes to slime molds, many people often mistakenly think of them as members of the fungal Kingdom. However, they are protozoan and taxonomically belong to the Protista Kingdom. Slime molds are well-known for their abilities to form noticeably stunning fruiting bodies and the “Blob-like” structure or plasmodium, in their life cycle. The plasmodium is actually a giant cell containing numerous nuclei without any cell wall. Thus, the plasmodium has no defined shape. The plasmodium can move and hunt for bacteria or small debris and then consume the foods by phagocytosis just like Pacman does (!). Without having a “brain”, but somehow the plasmodium can always figure out the shortest way to approach the food source. This phenomenon has been scientifically investigated and some slime molds species (e.g. Physarum polycephalum) have been proved to be the best “engineers”. For an instance, it takes P. polycephalum only a few hours to effectively link Tokyo (where the slime mold is placed) with the surrounding areas (food sources) and surprisingly that the resulted network is similar to the railway network of Tokyo that took the best Japanese engineers years of hard work to come up with.

Physarum polycephalum

Physarum polycephalum

Up to now, there have been not many studies focusing on these unique organisms, specifically their applications. Recently, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Thi My Hanh and her team (Slime mold research group from Department of Biotechnology – School of Biotechnology, International University) have just published their new findings on biological activity of compounds extracted from slime molds.

They cultured the slime mold Physarum polycephalum in liquid medium, collected both the biomass and the culture broth and extracted the polysaccharides from them. The results of their study showed that the intracellular polysaccharide (IPS, extracted from the biomass) and the exopolysaccharide (EPS, extracted from the culture broth) have different chemical compositions, therefore, they have different abilities to fight against cancer cells. Research also showed that IPS has the ability to fight against different cancer cell lines including breast cancer (MCF-7 cells) and cervical cancer (HELA cells). In addition, this compound has no negative effect on normal cells. It suggests that polysaccharide from slime molds would be a potential material for cancer treatment and the research data provides potential information for further studies relating to cancer treatment.

This work has just been published on the “BMC- Biotechnology” journal. This journal is ranked Q2 with an impact index of IF = 2,387 (2020), and is among the top prestigious journals in biotechnology field.

Reference:  Do, T.T.H., Lai, T.N.B., Stephenson, S.L., Tran, H.T.M. Cytotoxicity activities and chemical characteristics of exopolysaccharides and intracellular polysaccharides of Physarum polycephalum microplasmodia. BMC Biotechnol 21, 28 (2021).

Link: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12896-021-00688-5

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