Molecule found in tobacco could help fight cancer

The tobacco plant could be used to fight cancer cells in humans in the future.

A molecule found in a variety of flowering tobacco plant could hold the key to beating cancer in years to come.

Dr. Mark Hulett, lead researcher at La Trobe University, Australia where the discovery was made said: “There is some irony in the fact that a powerful defence mechanism against cancer is found in the flower of a species of tobacco plant, but this is a welcome discovery.”

According to Dr. Hullet, the main problem with current treatments is that they attack cells indiscriminately, whether they are cancerous or not.

NaD1, the protein responsible for defending the tobacco plant against fungi and bacteria uses a different approach, which may prove revolutionary.

The molecule works by using a pincer-like structure to latch onto lipids in the membrane of cancer cells, causing them to rupture and explode.

Unlike current cancer treatment, NaD1 targets affected cells whilst leaving healthy cells alone.

However, this tobacco protein is in the first stages of medical testing at the Melbourne biotechnology company, Hexima; it could be a decade before we see a cure reaching hospitals around the world.

“The next step is to undertake pre-clinical studies to determine what role NaD1 might be able to play in treating cancer.

“So far the preliminary trials have looked promising,” said Dr Hulett.

The flower housing NaD1 is actually belongs to a different species of tobacco plant from those used to make cigarettes.

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