As we all know, more than 65 million years ago, a 10 km wide asteroid had rammed into the Earth and as a result of this massive crash, the dinosaurs were completely wiped off the surface of our planet. This space rock didn't have much of a legacy, other than being the destroyer of the dinosaurs, until now. S
trangely enough, it is being believed by the scientists that iridium can be enlisted to kill the cancer cells in the human body without harming the healthy cells. And guess what! The metal, Iridium was brought to Earth by this very asteroid.
Laser-based technologies are currently emerging as viable treatments for cancer. These techniques target tumors far more precisely than the shotgun blast of radiation and chemotherapy. Correspondingly, researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK and Sun Yat-Sen University in China have found that laser light can turn iridium into an effective cancer eradicator, reported Warwick University.
During their study, the team created a compound of iridium and organic materials and then introduced that into a lung cancer tumor grown in the lab. After that, the scientists shone red laser light onto it through the skin and this process activated the compound, converting the oxygen in the tumor into singlet oxygen, a poisonous form of the element, which kills cancer cells from within.
The scientists also found out that the compound could effectively kill the cancer cell because it had managed to penetrate every layer of the tumor. With further examination, the team found out that the compound actually damaged proteins, which essentially manage heat shock stress and glucose metabolism, elements which are known to be crucial molecules for cancer's survival.
The best part was that when researchers tested the iridium compound on a mass of non-cancerous tissue, they discovered that it had no effect on it, which means, it appears to be a highly targeted treatment that doesn't attack healthy cells, but only the cancer cells.
"This project is a leap forward in understanding how these new iridium-based anti-cancer compounds are attacking cancer cells, introducing different mechanisms of action, to get around the resistance issue and tackle cancer from a different angle," said co-author of the paper, Cookson Chiu, a postgraduate researcher in Warwick's Department of Chemistry.
Iridium is relatively rare on Earth but scientists have found a spike in the Chicxulub crater, which is often associated with the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.
"The precious metal platinum is already used in more than 50 percent of cancer chemotherapies... It's certainly now time to try to make good medical use of the iridium delivered to us by an asteroid 66 million years ago," said Peter Sadler, lead author of the study.