It was way back in 1963 that scientists discovered the Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI), a tiny protein in soybeans that exhibits strong cancer chemoprotective and anticancer treatment properties. Unfortunately, little has been done to develop BBI as a potential anti-cancer drug since its so difficult to extract from the bean’s hull.
As a byproduct of the soybean industry, the hulls themselves aren’t expensive, but up until recently, a very complex extraction sequence was needed to separate the trace amounts of BBI from each one.
BBI is traditionally purified by ammonium sulfate precipitation, organic solvent extraction, centrifugation, gel filtration, column chromatography, or high performance liquid chromatography, reports Gizmag. Each of these procedures is time-consuming, involves a variety of hazardous materials, and results in limited amounts of purified material. The result is, as mentioned earlier, an extremely expensive substance.
But recent research out of the University of Missouri may have identified an extraction method that’s both amazingly simple and inexpensive: soaking the beans in water. Soaking soybeans is a common practice for those who make their own tofu or soy milk, and now scientists say that about four hours in a warm bath will cause the beans to naturally release large amounts of BBI that can easily be harvested from the water.
Of course, it will be quite some time before we can know for sure that the BBI extracted through the soaking method is potent enough for drug development. But in preliminary tests, the extract proved capable of stopping the dividing of in-vitro breast cancer cell division.
Image via Thinkstock
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