Fungus offers cancer insights

25 September 2015

A microbial “bandage” that helps protect yew trees from infections could hold the key to more effective and affordable cancer treatments, researchers at the University of Guelph have suggested.

The bandage is made up of a variety of beneficial fungi, including taxol. Taxol is currently used as a cancer treatment, but has to be harvested from yew trees, as attempts to create it synthetically have so far been unsuccessful.

The scientists found that when yew trees grow new branches, they crack open layers of protective bark and wood, giving harmful fungi an easy way into the tree. While taxol is a powerful way of preventing infection, it is also harmful to young buds and twigs.

The tree gets around this by storing the taxol in fatty bodies, preventing it from damaging the younger branches, while still being able to move quickly to the site of an infection to cover the hole and prevent it spreading further.

Posted by Edward Bartel

 

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