What Killed Dinosaurs May Kill Cancer Cells Too

Saturday, 04 Nov, 2017

Researchers from the United Kingdom and China have found that iridium - a rare metal delivered to Earth by the asteroid - can be very helpful in curing cancer disease.

Iridium is a rather rare metal, and while it is associated with the asteroid that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and much more life, it may come to be a powerful tool for preserving life.

Scientists at the the University of Warwick and Sun Yat-Sen University in China developed a new method to destroy cancer cells using the silvery metal iridium.

The researchers tested it on a lab grown lung cancer tumour and found out that it can kill it without providing any harm to the healthy cells of the body.

The researchers used a laser light to activate the iridium injected into the cancer cells, only to discover that the singlet oxygen infiltrated every layer of the tumour and eradicated it. Iridium compound and organic materials activated with laser light, converting normal oxygen into singlet, which actively kills cancer cells. However, the new study still offers a new perspective on this kind of cancer treatment.

Scientists have concluded the research by saying that the iridium compound had damaged the proteins for heat shock stress, and glucose metabolism, both known as key molecules in cancer.

"Our innovative approach to tackle cancer involving targeting important cellular proteins can lead to novel drugs with new mechanisms of action".

"Remarkable advances in modern mass spectrometry now allow us to analyze complex mixtures of proteins in cancer cells and pinpoint drug targets, on instruments that are sensitive enough to weigh even a single electron", said lead co-author Professor Peter O'Connor, also from the University of Warwick.

The metal, iridium, comes from the same family as platinum. Large amounts of this metal have been found in the Earth's crust from around 66 million years ago, which is about the same time the Chicxulub asteroid crashed on Earth. It is brittle, yellow in color, hard, has a melting point of more than 2400 Celsius, and is the most corrosion-resistant metal in the world.

Their preliminary work also showed the method is safe to healthy cells by conducting the treatment on non-cancerous tissue and finding it had no effect.

The asteroid that hit the Earth around 66 million years ago, effectively wiping out the dinosaur population, brought cosmic cancer-killing metals to Earth, according to a new study.