The science world is buzzing over a possible huge step forward in the fight against cancer. Researchers have discovered that a protein in the malaria vaccine could be a valuable weapon in combating – maybe even curing – the dreaded disease.
While developing a way to protect pregnant women from malaria which attacks the placenta, Danish scientists found that “armed” proteins in the malaria vaccine also attack cancer. They then took the proteins and combined them with a “toxin” that would bury itself within the cancer cells, hoping it would release itself in a Trojan Horse-style attack, reverting the cancerous tissue back to normal.
From the Independent:
The scientists have found that in both cases the [malaria] protein attaches itself to the same carbohydrate. It is the similarities between those two things that the cure could exploit.
The carbohydrate ensures that the placenta grows quickly. But the team behind the new findings have detailed how it serves the same function in [tumors] — and the malaria parasite attaches itself to the cancerous cells in the same way, meaning that it can kill them off.
“For decades, scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor,” said Ali Salanti from University of Copenhagen.
“The placenta is an organ, which within a few months grows from only few cells into an organ weighing [approximately] two pounds, and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. In a manner of speaking, tumors do much the same, they grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment.”
Featured image via mostlyscience.com