The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs could cure cancer

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This scientific research on cancer goes through several themes and the most diverse subjects of study. An investigation by the chemistry department of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the Sun-Yat Sen University in China led to the discovery of a technique that eliminates cancer cells by resorting to a precious metal. This metal, rare on planet Earth, was, however, abundant in the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

The cancer cells can be destroyed with the aid of iridium, this is a transition metal, hard, brittle, heavy and silvery white in color. It is generally used in high-strength alloys that can withstand high temperatures and is a rare element found in nature associated with osmium and platinum and very resistant to corrosion. At room temperature, iridium is in the solid state and is widely used in high dose rate brachytherapy, a modality of radiotherapy treatment for malignant tumors.

According to a group of researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK and Sun-Yat Sen University in China, cancer cells can be destroyed with the aid of iridium, a metal contained in abundance, in the asteroid that may have caused extinction of dinosaurs on Earth.

This theory is based on its legitimacy, mainly in the result achieved by researchers who have eliminated cancer cells, filling them with oxygen excited by energy with iridium.

This chemical element has been present in the earth’s crust for about 66 million years, causing some scientists to believe that they have reached our planet alongside the asteroid that struck the planet.

Several precious metals are used in more than 50% of chemotherapies, for example platinum, as well as iridium, since they have great potential to develop “targeted drugs that attack cancer cells in a completely new way and also fight against resistance”. Thus, these metals offer a promising outlook that could minimize the negative side effects, as Peter Salder, one of the authors of this research, said.

This method consists of introducing a compound with iridium particles into a tumor using a laser through the skin in the cancerous zone. This gives a process that releases the excited oxygen into the malignant cells until they are completely destroyed.

During the experiment, these scientists used the sample of a lung cancer that struck with a red-light beam in order to activate the compound with iridium introduced by them. As a result, all cancer cells were destroyed, while the process did not affect healthy cells.

This research is an evolution in efforts to understand the workings of anticancer compounds of this type and “introduces several mechanisms of action” aimed at overcoming resistance “and attacking cancer from different angles”, said Cookson Chiu, co-author of the study.

“Remarkable advances in modern mass spectrometry now allow us to analyze complex mixtures of proteins in cancer cells and identify specific drug targets on instruments sensitive enough to weigh even a single electron!”

Peter O’Connor, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Warwick, commented.

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