Amongst these retinoids, researchers from the University of the Basque Country chose retinamide for their investigations. Retinamide is a synthetic retinoid, i.e. our body does not produce this substance naturally.
Natural retinoids are used to treat various diseases (e.g. those of the skin) but they turn out to be quite poisonous in the doses required they are not well tolerated. This is why synthetic retinoids are created.
Specifically, the University research team analysed the effect of retinamide in certain types of leukemia - lymphoblastic leukemias. Nowadays, samples from the Hospital de Cruces in Bilbao are used in order to get these types of leukemia cells.
Lymphoblastic leukemias are, as their name indicates, a type of leukemia that affects lymphoblasts. Lymphoblasts are large cells, precursors of lymphocytes. Malign lymphoblasts are constantly dividing and they accumulate in the bone marrow impeding the formation of blood cells. In the analyses undertaken in the laboratory, it was seen that 95 % of these malign lymphoblasts died after application of retinamide. But what is the mechanism that really triggers this death?
To explain the process, the researchers analysed the action mechanism of the retinamide at a molecular level. From the analyses it was observed that the retinamide accelerated the oxidative stress within the malign cells and that this stress triggered the mechanisms leading to apoptosis. This death is normally clean and programmed death, and, to this end, a group of enzymes cut the protein inside the cell at certain sites, leading to the death of the cell in question. The death has no effect on healthy adjacent cells, does not result in swelling and the side effects are minimal.
Thus, according to what has been shown, retinamide has great potential to eliminate the lymphoblastic cells without affecting healthy lymphocytes nor the rest of the normal cells.
Contact: Garazi Andonegi