Could Wasp Venom Really Be A Cure For Cancer?

Wow, science.

Scientists have made some incredible new discoveries about the cancer-fighting ingredients in a Brazilian wasp's venom.

A study published yesterday (September 1) in Biophysical Journal revealed just how the toxin in the Brazilian Polybia paulista wasp's venom kills cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. The magic ingredient is called MP1 and the study suggests that it could stop the growth of bladder, prostate and drug-resistant leukemia cells.

Researchers already knew that the MP1 in the wasp's venom might be able to stop the growth of cancer cells, but before now, they didn't understand how it could kill cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone. The new study revealed that there are structural differences between the membranes of healthy cells and those of cancer cells -- so the MP1 can make holes in the membranes of cancer cells, penetrate them and destroy them, but it can't get in through the membranes of healthy cells.

Co-researcher Dr. Paul Beales from the University of Leeds told the BCC, "This could be useful in developing new combination therapies, where multiple drugs are used simultaneously to treat a cancer by attacking different parts of the cancer cells at the same time." For now, though, the research is still limited to the lab. Lots more tests are still needed before MP1 can be used to treat people.

In the meantime, researchers have also been investigating whether ingredients in wasp and bee venom might contain effective cures for HIV and ALS.