As stated in the article, researchers have recently performed studies to test the effects of the enzyme, L-asparaginase, on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells. The protein is derived from what is known as Baker's or Brewer's yeast. Tests were performed in vitro resulting in high numbers of apoptosis, or cell death, of the cancerous cells with low chances of damage to surrounding healthy cells. Scientist observed in past studies that ALL cells need asparagine synthetase, an enzyme that is required for protein synthesis and cell division. Given asparaginase, cells are depleted of that enzyme, therefore leading to apoptosis as noted in this study. In the past decades, leukemia was treated with similar enzymes that were instead derived from other organisms. However, patients either did not respond that well or became resistant over time. So the goal of this recent study was to derive that enzyme from a different organism to reduce those outcomes.
What is exciting about these results is that the from derived from yeast killed less of the healthy cells as opposed to the other forms used in previous treatments. It is exciting to see what the future holds for studies to come for not only leukemia treatments, but for similar illnesses that can be treated with the same enzyme as well.