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"Biosynthesis of new lactose esters via lipases. Characteristics of their physicochemical and anti-cancer properties."


Maciej Guzik, PhD

Project Leader


Wojciech Snoch, MSc

PhD student


Bio-catalysts – in our case enzymes – have already started displacing the traditional chemical counterparts in industrial production. Green catalysts offer environmentally friendly synthesis and production of only one ultra-pure product.  Our research idea is to employ enzymes from the family of lipases, which in living organisms, including human beings, digest fats into fatty acids and glycerin, or, in other words, perform reaction of fats hydrolysis. For many years lipases have been used to produce biofuels. They are added to washing powders to aid in the removal of greasy stains. In certain conditions, these enzymes can perform a reverse reaction to hydrolysis – they are able to stick together a molecule of an organic acid to another, containing alcohol group (for example glycerin, ethanol or a sugar), thus creating a new ester bond.



PROJECT SONATA ""Biosynthesis of new lactose esters via lipases. Characteristics of their physicochemical and anti-cancer properties."" is sponsored by the National Science Centre Poland 


From whey to anticancer drugs

In Poland we have a large and well-functioning dairy industry, which unfortunately generates huge amounts of liquid wastes – whey. Its surplus, which is still rich in lactose, is in most of the cases underutilized and is used as a feedstock for cattle. Thinking about these locally generated waste streams, and having in mind sustainable development of our country, we have chosen lactose to make sugar esters using lipases. We will test a range of enzymes originating from a variety of organisms thanks to which we will get several differently build esters made from lactose and monomers coming from bioplastics.


Theoretical and experimental
investigation of reaction mechanism

One may ask – why would we look into making such exotic molecules built from whey lactose and polyhydroxyalkanoates monomers? It is common knowledge that cancerous cells munch on sugars more greedily than normal cells do and our new compounds are built from a sugar. In addition, scientists have shown that, once taken up by a cell, sugar esters completely mess up their energy production system. On top of that, the Irish research has shown that an addition of a PHA monomer to an anticancer drug largely improves the latter’s therapeutic effect. These facts provide quite an optimistic premise that we are on a right track to create not only a new drug to fight cancer, but also to equip the scientific society with methods for novel esters preparation and their characterization.

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