After a decade of research and laboratory tests, researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) managed to develop a “super chayote,” whose crude extract contains a powerful antitumor and antineoplastic agent that does no harm to normal cells.
The cell biology specialist Edelmiro Santiago Osorio, along with his team at the Faculty of Higher Studies (FES) Zaragoza campus, managed to develop this hybrid of two species of wild Mexican chayotes. He was surprised at the vegetable’s antineoplastic properties.
He claims it is as powerful as cytarabine, a drug used in the treatment of some types of cancer, whose mechanism is based on interfering with DNA synthesis, which hinders the multiplication of malignant cells.
The crude extract of the hybrid generated in his laboratory is a thousand times more powerful than that of the specimens that can be found in a common market, so they are looking to create a company that incubates the active substance of this “super chayote,” in order to make it available to the public.
“We would have to eat many kilos of chayote from the market to have the effect that we achieved with the hybrid; regardless, it is healthy to consume this cucurbitaceae. In fact, they’re usually a basic part of a patient’s diet in hospitals,” he said.
According to the General Direction of Social Communication of UNAM, the crude extract of the university hybrid was tested in the leukemic cell lines and bone marrow mononuclear cells of normal mice. The substance successfully inhibited the proliferation of some cancer reproductive cells to a great extent.
The researcher of the FES Zaragoza explained that him and his team did not intend to look for an individual molecule, but to create a whole arsenal: “we must find a way to attack the disease in different points of the tumor cell development simultaneously.”
This line of research, concluded Edelmiro Santiago, began in 2005 to work alongside agronomists who were investigating the chayote to learn about its biological effects and food benefits.