Zachary Reitman and colleagues at Duke Cancer Institute were hoping to better understand how tumors grow and may have stumbled on a greener route to the polymer nylon along the way. The team primarily studies the genetic changes that cause healthy tissues to become cancerous with a view to developing better treatments. They spotted a mutation present in glioblastoma and other brain tumors that affects the enzyme isocitrate dehydrogenase and thinking somewhat laterally wondered whether a similar mutation in a closely related enzyme found in yeast and bacteria, homoisocitrate dehydrogenase, might be exploited to improve the fermentation process used to produce adipic acid, the building block of nylon. Preliminary tests show that the mutation might indeed lead to a greener route to adipic acid once scale-up of the biotransformation is made viable.
Cancer study produces green nylon