Brazilian wasp venom can be turned into a cancer fighter, researchers are suggesting in a new study released Tuesday in the science publication Biophysical Journal
Polybia paulista is an aggressive wasp mostly found in southeastern Brazil and its toxic venom is used to attack prey and defend itself, according to BBC News.
Scientists said in the Biophysical Journal study that the venom contains the toxin MP1, which has been shown to target and destroy cancer cells in tests on mice.
Scientists from the study said MP1 appears to attack fat molecules that are found on the surface of cancer cells, creating large holes that allow the molecules needed for cell function to leak out. Since the fat molecules on healthy cells are located inside, MP1 should avoid attacking them.
"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," said Dr. Paul Beales, the study's co-author from the University of Leeds.
Beales told BBC News that the treatment using MP1 would become an entirely new class of anti-cancer drugs.
Co-author Dr. João Neto, from São Paulo State University in Brazil, said that MP1's destructive attacks on cancer cells happens quickly and kills the cells' chances to survive.
"Formed in only seconds, these large pores are big enough to allow critical molecules such as RNA and proteins to easily escape cells," Neto said of MP1, according to The Guardian.
Laboratory tests have reportedly shown that the toxin was effective in suppressing the growth of prostate and bladder cancer cells, along with leukemia cells that had been resistant to other drugs.
"Until a decade ago, Polybia paulista wasn't well known to anyone other than entomologists and the hapless people it stung in its native Brazil," PBS Nova Now's Tim De Chant wrote
, calling MP1 possibly the "ideal chemotherapy."
"But then, a number of research groups discovered a series of remarkable qualities all concentrated in the aggressive wasp's venom," he added.
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