Mexican Student Extracts Anti-Cancer Compounds from AgaveBy Fernanda Duque Hernández
The initiative has already been endorsed in the online Google-Science Afair.
Alan Heredia is a high school student who is getting ready to participate in the online contest Google Science Fair, discovered a biotechnological process to extract anti-cancer compounds from agave residues.
The young Mexican and his academic advisors – Javier Larragoiti Kuri, Professor of Chemistry, and Lorraine Pedraza Segura, an academic from the Department of Engineering and Chemical Sciences at the Universidad Iberoamericana – managed to obtain carotenoids, natural compounds found in plants and animals. These natural antioxidants have been proven to inhibit the formation of certain cancers.
The anti-carcinogen obtained is called astaxanthin. For the production of carotenoids, Alan hydrolyzed the organic agave residue; subsequently enriching it with yeast. The result is then passed from the inoculum to a growth medium for 47 hours, during which it is fermented and the anticancer compound is produced.
The success of this carotenoid has reached the international price of US $500 dollars per kilogram. So far it had been impossible to obtain this compound from agave waste, making the work of Alan
The decision to use agave plant residues was aimed to demonstrate the project’s sustainability. This plant is used in the elaboration of mescal and tequila and it is estimated that in Mexico the tequila industry produces about 120,000 tons of waste.
It will be on July 7 that Alan finds out if his initiative makes it through the Google Science Fair’s regional finals. If it passes, he will then go on to participate on the contest’s international stage.
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