Brazilian Wasp Kills Cancer Cells Without Harming The Healthy Ones

This Brazilian wasp Polybia paulista, protects itself against predators by producing venom known to contain a powerful cancer-fighting ingredient.

Brazilian Wasp Kills Cancer Cells Without Harming The Healthy OnesAlthough wasps have painful stingers and are undeniably un-cute, they are very useful. According to BBC News, scientists believe that the venom of a wasp native to Brazil could be used as a weapon to fight cancer.

Lab suggests that their venom kills cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Brazilian Wasp Kills Cancer Cells Without Harming The Healthy OnesThe University of Brazil team says that the experimental therapy latches to tumour cells and makes them leak vital molecules. The cancer-targeting toxin in the wasp is called MP1 (Polybia-MP1).

According to a new research, it exploits the abnormal arrangement of fats or lipids, in cancer cell membranes. Their abnormal distribution creates weak points where the toxin can interact with the lipids, which ultimately pokes gaping holes in the membrane. These are sufficiently large for essential molecules to start leaking out, like proteins, which the cell cannot function without.

The wasp responsible for producing this toxin is the Polybia paulista. The toxin has so far been tested on model membranes and examined using a broad range of imaging techniques. You can see the team’s research results in the Biophysical Journal.

Cancer therapies that attack the lipid composition of the cell membrane would be an entirely new class of anticancer drugs. This could be useful in developing new combination therapies, where multiple drugs are used simultaneously to treat a cancer by attacking different parts of the cancer cells at the same time,” says co-senior study author Paul Beales, of the University of Leeds in the UK.

In healthy cell membranes, the inner layer (facing the inside of the cell) is packed with phospholipids, including PS (phosphatidylserine) and PE (phosphatidylethanolamine). However, in cancer cells, PS and PE are located on the outer layer of the cell membrane, facing the opposite way. 

To test the different effects of PS and PE’s presence on a cell, the scientists examined how the MP1 interacted with model membranes infused with PE and/or PS. The presence of each phospholipid had a destructive effect on the cells. PS increased the chance of MP1 binding to the membrane by a factor of seven to eight. The presence of PE inflated the size of the holes created by the MP1 by a factor 20 to 30.

According to João Ruggiero Neto from São Paulo State University, a co-author of the study,

Formed in only seconds, these large pores are big enough to allow critical molecules such as RNA and proteins to easily escape cells,”The dramatic enhancement of the permeabilization induced by the peptide in the presence of PE and the dimensions of the pores in these membranes was surprising.”

The next stage for this research is to adjust the amino acid sequence of MP1 to see what gives it its selective properties, and to try and refine them. 

As Dr Aine McCarthy, science information officer for Cancer Research UK said,

This early stage research increases our understanding of how the venom of the Brazilian wasp can kill cancer cells in the laboratory. But while these findings are exciting, much more work is needed in the lab and in clinical trials before we will know if drugs based on this research could benefit cancer patients.”


via Science Daily and Medical News Today

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