UACES Facebook Arkansas rice bran a source for cancer-fighting peptides
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Arkansas rice bran a source for cancer-fighting peptides

By Dave Edmark
U of A System Division of Agriculture
May 16, 2016 

Fast facts:

  • Peptides, organic substances in rice bran, have been shown to promote anti-tumor proliferation in human cell lines
  • Process has been patented to Division of Agriculture, is available for commercial license
  • Researchers seeking to perform clinical trials

(420 words)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Rice bran, a byproduct of rice milling abundant in Arkansas that’s used as low-cost animal feed, could become a player in some much higher stakes. Organic substances in rice bran have potent anti-cancer capabilities and can potentially be used in food ingredients both for preventive and treatment purposes against the disease. 

The organic substances are peptides that are bioactive – meaning they can affect living organisms or the tissue around the peptides. Proposed uses are in the patent issued in 2013 to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. More research and development of commercial partnerships is needed before anything is ready for the market. 

“We are looking for partners who can work with us so that we can move to the next step of research,” said Navam Hettiarachchy, University professor of food science. She is the inventor of the process outlined in the patent. “As a follow up, we have to do a clinical trial to test its efficacy,” she said. Initially, we’ll conduct clinical trials on animals and then move to human subjects.” 

Peptides consist of amino-acid molecules that are structured like proteins but are smaller. During milling the outer aleurone layer, known as bran in cereals, forms a byproduct that contains oil, protein and fiber. After oil is extracted from the bran, the resulting inexpensive residue rich in protein can be used to produce value-added bioactive peptides. Gastrointestinal-resistant peptides with bioactivities can be produced by using enzymes with rice bran protein. 

Food products under Hettiarachchy’s patent would include a biopeptide that could find applications including beverages, dairy products, and other suitable products. It can also be synthesized. 

Isolating and purifying peptides from rice bran can serve as a less expensive, natural alternative to synthetic anti-cancer drugs, Hettiarachchy said. 

Hettiarachchy’s research group used human cell line culture models to determine the bioactive capabilities of peptides obtained from rice bran to determine that they have potential as antitumor agents in humans. Findings from the research could be a basis for animal and human trials. 

“These bioactives could be our next generation of natural anti-disease agents delivered at low cost,” Hettiarachchy said. 

The team’s efforts received funding support from a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences breast cancer research project. Hettiarachchy’s group in collaboration with UAMS found that rice bran-derived peptides could inhibit growth of breast cancer cells in human cell lines. 

Hettiarachchy expects that the peptides can be implemented through nutraceuticals, food products as well as dietary supplements that have health benefits. The clinical trials that Hettiarachchy hopes to pursue are costly and will require additional funding from new sources.

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The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 




Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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