CHEMICALS found in greenery on roadside verges could provide the source for cancer treatments, it has been claimed.

Science firm TeeGene Biotech says plants subjected to pollution could be recycled into drugs.

The company, based at the Wilton Centre, near Redcar, is carrying out research on whether the vegetation contains deposits from vehicle exhausts capable of being reused in cancer medicines and pacemakers.

The firm, a Teesside University spin-out venture, is being supported by the University of York, Stockton-based Johnson Matthey, which makes catalysts to reduce vehicles’ pollution levels.

Dr Pattanathu Rahman, TeeGene’s founder, said: “This is an exciting project that utilises our expertise perfectly.

“There is a growing demand for platinum to be used in medical applications, just as there is increasing concern about the environmental impact of platinum deposits due to air pollution, so this research is very timely.”

The project, known as Plants as Nanoparticle Producers, is being funded through a Crossing Biological Membranes network proof of concept grant.

The network aims to develop projects holding the potential to overcome major challenges in the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy arena.

The research is expected to be completed by August next year.

In June, TeeGene revealed it was working on a project to take high-value chemicals from plants.

At the time, Dr Rahman said it would look at the use of microalgae in industrial waste water treatment, as well as their potential as a chemical ingredient.

It was given an innovation grant by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and received backing from the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant to carry out the tests.