Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers blend folk treatment, high tech for promising anti-cancer compound

09.02.2005


Ancient wisdom, technological savvy



Researchers at the University of Washington have blended the past with the present in the fight against cancer, synthesizing a promising new compound from an ancient Chinese remedy that uses cancer cells’ rapacious appetite for iron to make them a target.
The substance, artemisinin, is derived from the wormwood plant and has been used in China since ancient times to treat malaria. Earlier work by Henry Lai and Narendra Singh, both UW bioengineers, indicated that artemisinin alone could selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

The new compound appears to vastly improve that deadly selectivity, according to a new study that appeared in a recent issue of the journal Life Sciences. In addition to Lai and Singh, co-authors include Tomikazu Sasaki and Archna Messay, both UW chemists. "By itself, artemisinin is about 100 times more selective in killing cancer cells as opposed to normal cells," Lai said. "In this study, the new artemisinin compound was 34,000 times more potent in killing the cancer cells as opposed to their normal cousins. So the tagging process appears to have greatly increased the potency of artemisinin’s cancer-killing properties."



The compound has been licensed to Chongqing Holley Holdings and Holley Pharmaceuticals, its U.S. subsidiary, to be developed for possible use in humans. Although the compound is promising, officials say, potential use for people is still years away.

In the study, researchers exposed human leukemia cells and white blood cells to the compound. While the leukemia cells quickly died, the white blood cells remained essentially unharmed. The trick to the compound’s effectiveness, according to Lai, appears to be in taking advantage of how cancer cells function.

Because they multiply so rapidly, most cancer cells need more iron than normal cells to replicate DNA. To facilitate that, cancer cells have inlets on their surface, known as transferrin receptors, in greater numbers than other cells. Those receptors allow quick transport into the cell of transferrin, an iron-carrying protein found in blood.

In creating the compound, researchers bound artemisinin to transferrin at the molecular level. The combination of the two ingredients appears to fool the cancer cell. "We call it a Trojan horse because the cancer cell recognizes transferrin as a natural, harmless protein," Lai said. "So the cell picks up the compound without knowing that a bomb – artemisinin – is hidden inside."

Once inside the cell, the artemisinin reacts with the iron, spawning highly reactive chemicals called "free radicals." The free radicals attack other molecules and the cell membrane, breaking it apart and killing the cell.

According to Lai, that process is what initially piqued his interest in artemisinin about 10 years ago. The wormwood extract was used centuries ago in China, but the treatment became lost over time. In the 1970s, it was rediscovered as part of an ancient manuscript containing medical remedies, including a recipe that used a wormwood extract. The medical community soon discovered that the extract, artemisinin, worked well against malaria, and it is currently used for that purpose throughout Asia and Africa.

Artemisinin combats malaria because the malaria parasite collects high iron concentrations as it metabolizes hemoglobin in the blood. As science began to understand how artemisinin functioned, Lai said, he began to wonder if the process had implications for cancer treatment. "I started thinking that maybe we could use this knowledge to selectively target cancer cells," he said. "So far, the outlook appears good."

The next step in development under the Holley licensing agreement will likely be testing in animals and, if that pans out, human trials to gauge the compound’s effectiveness. The current study was funded by the Artemisinin Research Foundation and Chongqing Holley Holdings.

Rob Harrill | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ambush in a petri dish
24.11.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>