Iridium, the alien metal brought to Earth on the meteorite that eventually caused the extinction of dinosaurs could cure cancer, according to new research. A mixture of rare metal and protein in human blood could penetrate into the nucleus of cancer cells and kill them. All one needs to add is a blast of light, according to researchers at Warwick University in England.
It could revolutionize treatment for the deadliest forms of the disease, say British scientists. One of the hardest elements to find on Earth, Iridium, landed in the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago. The Warwick group combined Iridium to the blood protein Albumin, which then was blasted with light, which allowed the researchers to track its passage into cancer cells, where it converted the cells’ own oxygen to a lethal form which killed them.
“It is amazing that this large protein can penetrate into cancer cells and deliver iridium which can kill them selectively on activation with visible light. If this technology can be translated into the clinic, it might be effective against resistant cancers and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy,” Professor Peter Sadler, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick said.
“It is fascinating how albumin can deliver our photosensitizer so specifically to the nucleus. We are at a very early stage, but we are looking forward to see where the preclinical development of this new compound can lead. Our team is not only extremely multidisciplinary, including biologists, chemists, and pharmacists, but also highly international, including young researchers from China, India and Italy supported by Royal Society Newton and Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowships,” Dr. Cinzia Imberti, from the University of Warwick, said.
The rare element that could be key to fighting cancer had spelled doom for dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era when an asteroid carrying it slammed into Earth with an explosive yield that wiped out 80 percent of life on Earth.
Iridium found in the world famous Chicxulub crater underneath the Yucatan Peninsula caused by the asteroid strike. The precious metal platinum is already used in over half of cancer chemotherapies.