The vitamin sabotages cancer cells' infrastructure for division
vitamin K3 or menadione, as it is chemically known, shows property of an anti-cancer agent. Its mechanism of action was as yet unexplored. Researchers from University of Calcutta used the vitamin in cultures of human cervical and oral epithelial cancer cells to know its role.
The vitamin arrested the growth of both the types of cancer cells by collapsing the cells' infrastructure needed for division. The team found a substantial reduction in the density of the microtubules in cancer cells. So they inferred menadione's anti-cancer property lies in its ability to bind to and disable protein tubulin that forms microtubules. Microtubules are crucial for cell division. To confirm its find, the team isolated tubulin from goat brain tissue and exposed it to menadione. The vitamin interacted with tubulin.
"Cells treated with menadione remained depleted of microtubules for at least 24 hours after the compound was removed from the cultures," said lead researcher Gopal Chakrabarti from the department of biotechnology and B C Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Calcutta university. The study was published online in the June 15 issue of Biochemistry.
Vitamin K3 is produced in the body to aid in clotting. But it is in low quantities and harmless. When used as a drug its effect will depend upon its concentration. The researchers are yet to assess its impact on healthy cells.
Plumbagin, a yellow pigment found in the root of the herb chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) was found to check cancer cell growth in a similar manner by a previous study (see Down To Earth, Root Therapy, September 1-15, 2008).
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