The researches from University of Washington merged the past with the present in the fight against cancer. They synthesize new compounds from an old Chinese remedy, which the affinity of iron is use to destroy cancer cells.
Substance artemisinin is derived from wormwood, a plant that has been used in China since ancient times as a cure for malaria. Studies Henry Lai and Narendra Singh, both bio engineers of the University of Washington suggest that artemisinin can selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact.
Artemisinin is a plant originated from China. It latin name is “Artemisia Annua” or it is called Wormwood. Artemisia annua is 100 times more selective in killing cancer cells.
Apoptosis(death) of the cancerous cells
As part of their research, has been shown that cancerous cells experiencing apoptosis or self-destruction, and so far this extract was difficult to obtain on favorable prices, but with the growing interest in this plant, and the price could become more acceptable.
According to a new study that appeared in a recent issue of Life Sciences, it is considered that the appearance of new compounds increases the selective death of cancer cells. In addition to the study by Lai and Singh include Tomikazu Sasaki and Arkna Mesa, both chemists at the University of Washington.
“Artemisinin itself is about 100 times more selective in killing cancer cells than normal cells. In this study, the new artemisinin-compound was 34,000 times stronger in killing cancer cells than normal cells. It is notable that the properties of artemisinin in killing cancer cells drastically increased ”- says Lai.
It takes time for the drug to become more accessible
The compound was licensed from “Chongqing Holding Holly” and “Holly Pharmaceutical Department” in the United States to develop possible use in humans. Although the compound is promising good results, officials say the potential use is still years away.
French manufacturer of drugs “Sanofi “said it expected production of 50 to 60 tons of artemisinin each year, hoping it will satisfy the demand in the world market.
In the study, researchers exposed leukemia cells from humans and cells from white blood cells to this compound. Leukemia cells quickly died while white blood cells, in general, remain intact.
According to Lai, the trick of the effectiveness of this compound is how the cancer cells react to artemisin. Because they multiply very quickly (cancer cells), it takes a large amount of iron to produce DNA. To achieve this, cancer cells have to transfer to their surface in much large number then normal cells. 3
Iron is collecting in their receptors, and because cancer cells have a greater quantity, therefore, can be targeted combination for the iron and artemisinin. these receptors able fast transfer of transmisinin in the cells, inside. Transferrin is a protein found in the blood, and contains iron.
In a way it acts as a disguise bomb that can quickly erase cancer.
Lures cancer cells
In creating the compound researchers, connected artemisnin with transferrin on the molecular level. The combination of both ingredients should deceive cancer cells.
“We call this Trojan horse, because cancer cells recognize transferrin and transferrin for them is a natural and harmless protein. Thus the cells absorb the compound without knowing that actually contains a bomb – artemisinin – hidden inside” – says Lai.
When it will get into the cells, it reacts with iron, starting high reacting chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals attack other molecules and the cell membrane, braking and killing the cancer cell.
According to Lai, the process of the artemisininot interested him ten years ago. Wormwood extract was used in China centuries ago, but over the years the treatment has been forgotten. It was restored in the ’70s, when it was found in an old book, containing recipes for various diseases, and among them was the pick of wormwood extract.
Initially treated malaria
Medical community soon discovered that artemisinin extract is very effective against malaria. For this purpose it is used in Asia and Africa.
Artemisinin treat malaria because the parasite that causes malaria, uses large amounts of iron needed for metabolism of hemoglobin in the blood.