The Indian Institute of Indore has made a great achievement in the field of medicine by developing an economical means to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) with fewer side-effects. ALL is a type of blood cancer that can now be cured with the help of the new asparaginase- an enzyme cultured by IIT-Indore, using the protein engineering approach. About 25% of all cancer cases diagnosed in children mounting up to 25,000 cases each year, in India itself.

A new ray of hope after 12 years of research

Asparaginase is commonly used for the treatment of cancer, however, IIT-Indore has highlighted that the repeated use of this enzyme causes several side-effects in patients. These range from allergic reactions to neurotoxicity, immunogenicity, hypersensitivity and toxicity to the pancreas, liver, spleen among other organs - causing more harm than help.

As a result, there is a global search to find an asparaginase variant with a safer immunogenic profile than the current enzyme that hampers the treatment of leukemia. Achieving a milestone in this field, the Indian Institute of Indore, developed a new variant called the M-ASPAR asparaginase after 12 years of research. The primary aim was to develop an enzyme variant that could not only reduce grave side effects but also improve the overall primary treatment and relapse of ALL.

The Principal Investigator Professor Avinash Sonawane of Biosciences and Biomedical Engineering at IIT-Indore informed that is novel enzyme is less carcinogenic, causes fewer toxicities, including neurotoxicity. It is far more stable than the current asparaginase used for treatment and could kill leukemia cells.

IIT-Indore aces the field of research and medicine

The research team led by Professor Sonawane includes Dr Ranjit Mehta, Soumika Sengupta and Mainak Biswas pointed out that access to good quality asparaginase in India is a big problem despite being included in WHO's list of essential medicines. The same problem persists in several other Asian, African and South American countries as well.

IIT Indore joined hands with Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer and Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai along with a Mumbai-based biopharmaceutical company, and is going to begin with phase I and II clinical trials of the M-ASPAR.

The officiating Director, Professor N Jain pointed out that research has always been the forte of the IITs. This is a crucial achievement in the field of medicine as the new enzyme will reduce side effects and the overall cost of treatment- marking a marvel in the treatment of cancer in India. IIT will lend maximum support to the trials until a logical and concrete conclusion is reached.

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