In a fascinating attempt to thwart cancerous tumors growing in mice, biology and physiology researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis created nanobees to carry bee toxin directly to the tumors.
The active ingredient in bee toxin is melittin. Though poisonous, scientists have been challenged to use this substance to kill disease and cancer cells in our bodies without harming healthy cells.
In a study publishing in the August 10 online version of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Washington University researchers detail how cancerous tumors in mice were targeted.
They first created spheres of nanomaterials to target only the cancerous cells and then attached the melittin to those "nanobees." Once injected into the mice, the nanobees went straight for the tumors where they "poked holes in the internal structures" of the tumors without destroying any surrounding tissue.
As a result, after four or five injections of the nanobees over several days, breast cancer cells in one group of mice slowed their growth rate by 25 percent. And the melanoma tumors in a second group of mice decreased by 88 percent.
Then, the researchers went a step further by adding a targeting agent that is attracted to growing blood vessels around tumors - a sign that the cancer is spreading. When injected into the mice with melanoma, the new nanobees went to the precancerous skin lesions, effectively reducing them by 80 percent.
The nanobees and the targeting agents used allowed melittin to be injected into the bloodstreams of the mice without harming them. The nanobees actually protected red blood cells and healthy organs in the mice, while killing most of the cancer cells.
Because of the versatility and stability of melittin, this study will doubtless lead to further exploration for its curative values. Mellittin does not "jump off" the nanoparticle until it reaches its destination, even when medicines or target agents are added.
Source: RD Mag, photo via simplehuman
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