American scientists have just announced the successful synthesis of a molecule known to fight breast and ovarian cancer and also prevent the development of kidney disease. The molecule, called taxol, was discovered more than 20 years ago in the bark of the Pacific Yew tree. However the Pacific Yew is an endangered species, and it requires the entire bark from a 100 year old tree to produce just enough taxol for a single dose. Therefore naturally occurring taxol simply cannot meet the demand. In addition, natural taxol can produce lethal reactions in some patients. The scientists' success in making their first taxol molecule will enable researchers to find an efficient way of producing taxol in the laboratory. And scientists may be able to modify the molecule so that it doesn't cause unwanted side effects.
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