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July 3rd, 2008
A team of San Diego scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that the cure for cancer may be linked to a marine compound found within long strands of rosy-colored toxic bacteria that grow beneath mangroves in the South Pacific.
In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography identified a potent and stealthy compound in the bacteria, called "mermaid's hair," that can kill tumors and be delivered without harming healthy tissue -- thereby avoiding a major drawback to traditional cancer therapies such as radiation treatments and chemotherapy drugs.
Because the ScA compound naturally clumps into molecule-sized bits, called nanoparticles, it can be customized through nanotechnology to target specific cancer cells and spare healthy ones.
The minute particles can act like guided missiles, ferrying injected anti-cancer drugs to a tumor. Unlike conventional therapies, the particles Wrasidlo is using are expected to carry a small molecule that can attach itself and the drug only to blood vessels that feed the tumors.
Without nanotechnology, the compound would be too risky and would "never make it to the drug market," Wrasidlo said. "We now have the optimum way of getting the compound to the tumor and circulating it long-term throughout the body."
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