Scientists now explain what molecular mechanisms can link low levels of vitamin C to the accelerated formation of cancer cells in leukemia.
It was a team of US scientists who explained in an article in this week’s issue of Nature how vitamin C levels can influence the development of leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the cells of the immune system (the Leukocytes).
“We have known for some time that people with low levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) have an increased risk of cancer, but we do not quite understand why. Our research provides some of the explanation, at least for the blood-forming system”, said Sean Morrison of the Research Institute at the University of Southwest Texas Pediatrics Medical Center who coordinated the entire study.
Using techniques created during this work, the team was able to analyze the levels of metabolites (products resulting from the metabolism of a molecule) in a rare population of isolated cells in tissues – the stem cells of the blood, which give rise to the various cells of the blood, Red blood cells and platelets). Thus, the team found that blood stem cells have very high levels of vitamin C, according to a statement from that institute.
But instead of a loss of stem cell activity (usually flooded with vitamin C), scientists found that, after all, the number of these cells and their activity increased. “Stem cells use ascorbic acid to regulate the abundance of certain chemical modifications in DNA, which are part of the epigenome – a set of mechanisms within a cell that regulates which gene are turned on and off”, explained Michalis Agathocleous, lead author of study and research. “So, when stem cells do not get enough vitamin C, the epigenome can get damaged in a way that increases stem cell activity and also the risk of leukemia”.
The team also noted how the lack of vitamin C affected an enzyme (Tet2) that is suppressor of tumors, in the initial stages of leukemia this enzyme is precisely inactivated.