Did you know…South Korean scientists have found a way to flip cancer’s “Off” switch?
According to a startling and brand-new study by a team of scientists from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, magnets may be the secret to switching off cancer. The results of this first-of-its-kind study—about to be published in the journal Nature Materials—are so impressive that further investigation is already underway.
Apoptosis: The Key to Cancer’s “Off Switch”
The main ways the body rids itself of old, faulty, or diseased cells is through something called programmed cell death, or apoptosis.
Apoptosis is also what makes cancer cells so dangerous—or more specifically, the absence of apoptosis. That’s because with cancer cells, apoptosis ceases to occur. Instead of dying their programmed deaths, cancer cells multiply uncontrollably.
For some time now, scientists have understood that through finding a way to artificially induce apoptosis, they would have the power to “turn off” cancer. And that’s the reason the results of the Korean study are so incredibly promising.
“A Magnetic Death Switch” for Cancer Cells
Yonsei University’s research team, led by Professor Jinwoo Cheon, tested iron nanoparticles against cancer cells. Iron nanoparticle naturally bind to “receptor” molecules on cancer cells. The results were remarkable.
Cheon and his colleagues found that these nanoparticles allowed them to:
- Control cell-signaling pathways
- Prevent cells from malfunctioning
- Trigger apoptosis, or programmed cell death
It worked like this: When the team applied a magnetic field to cells treated with the nanoparticles, the particles clustered. That clustering effect set off the cell’s “death receptor,” which triggered apoptosis, the key to stopping cancer in its tracks.
Essentially, as one reporter put it, nanoparticles can be used as a “remote-controlled magnetic death switch to kill cancer cells.”
Magnets Destroyed More than Half of Cancer Cells
Cheon’s team also tested the nanoparticles in combination with magnets, with astounding success. In a series of lab experiments, the team placed nanoparticle treated bowel cancer cells between two magnets. The cells were specially engineered to turn green as an indication that apoptopic clustering was occurring.
Cheon and the others noted that the magnets destroyed more than half the nanoparticle treated cells. As a control, the team also placed untreated cells between the magnets, and found that absolutely none of those cells were affected.
Promising Results Outside of the Lab
The most exciting facet of the Yonsei University study is that the researchers were able to use the same process in living laboratory fish.
Prior studies on using the death receptor to fight cancer have focused only on in vitro systems, meaning cells in a petri dish. Because of the biological complexity of living animals, an in vivo approach—using live subjects—is much more complicated. Finding a way to do so, however, is essential to using the “death switch” concept in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
“Our study is one of the breakthroughs providing an effective way of cell function control in live vertebrates.”
— Professor Jeon-Soo Shin, Chemistry World
While the process needs refining, this study offers a revolutionary new approach to treating and curing cancer and other terminal illnesses. More trials are currently in the works.