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Snake venom to cure cancer

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Hyderabad, (The News Bureau)

Cancer cell growth may be stopped using the venom of scorpion, snake and bee. A team of scientists at the University of Illinois, headed by Dipanjan Pan, discovered this in their lab.

The work is in very early stages, but has shown success in stopping breast cancer and melanoma cell growth in lab tests. Dipanjan’s technique uses nanotechnology to deliver a synthesized element similar to the venom found in bees,

nakes and scorpions.

Ancient texts show doctors have used venom to treat aliments for years. In 14 BC, the Greek writer Pliny the Elder described the use of bee venom as a cure for baldness. Doctors used beestings to treat the Emperor Charlemagne's gout in the 700s. Traditional Chinese medicine has used frog venom to fight liver, lung, colon and pancreatic cancers. 

Alternative doctors in Cuba have used scorpion venom to fight brain tumors. The general problem with injecting someone with venom is that there can be harmful side effects. Beestings, for example, hurt and become inflamed because melittin, the main toxin in a bee's venom, destroys cell membranes. It can also cause blood to clot, damage the heart muscle and hurt healthy nerve cells. 

But Dipanjan's lab has developed a technique to separate out the important proteins and peptides in the venom so they can be used to stop cancer cell growth. His lab has found a way to synthesize the

ese helpful cells.

"Since it is synthetic, there's no ambiguity in what the substance contains. The synthetic material is then delivered to cancer cells using nanotechnology. In camouflaging the whole toxin as a part of the nanoparticle, it bypasses healthy cells and is attracted to only the cancer cells. In other words, it is so tightly packed into the nanoparticle it does not leak out and cause other problems, Dipanjan said.

These nanoparticles with the synthesized venom can either slow down or stop cancer cell growth, and may ultimately stop the cancer from spreading. Unlike chemotherapy, this more targeted technique would, in theory, only affect cancer cells. If it is successful, this natural agent found in venom could become the basis for a whole legion of cancer-fighting drugs.

Dipanjan's lab will try the synthesized venom and nanotechnology combination on cancer cells in rats and pigs. If successful, they will then try the technique on humans. 

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