Scientists from University of California,Irvine,have identified a protein that triggers the deadly food toxin found in fungi on nuts and grains,which if consumed in large quantities can cause liver cancer.
Because of lax or nonexistent regulation,large numbers of people in developing countries are chronically exposed to vast amounts of toxin,called aflatoxin.
It can colonize and contaminate nuts and grains before harvest or during storage.
The combination of aflatoxin and hepatitis B virus exposure increases the likelihood of liver cancer occurrence by 60 times.
The toxin destroys cancer-preventing gene in humans called p53. Without p53 protecting the body,aflatoxin can compromise immunity,interfere with metabolism,and cause severe malnutrition and cancer.
Lead researcher Sheryl Tsai,UCI molecular biology and biochemistry,chemistry along with her colleagues found a protein called PT,which is crucial for aflatoxin to form in fungi.
“The protein PT is the key to making the poison,” Nature magazine quoted Tsai as saying.
“With this knowledge,perhaps we could kill the PT with drugs,inhibiting the mold’s ability to make aflatoxin,” she added.
Presently,destroying the mold rather than just the PT is the method of decontamination,however it’s expensive.
“This finding will lead to an increased understanding of how aflatoxin causes liver cancer in humans,” said Dr. Frank Meyskens,Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. Endowed Chair and director of UCI’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“It should allow for the development of inhibitors and,hopefully,a new chemoprevention approach to this deadly cancer,” he added.