This cute-looking creature is actually the larval form of a life-threatening parasite. Echinococcus granulosus, also known as the dog tapeworm, can be transmitted to humans and grow reproductive cysts in major organs such as the lungs or liver. The current treatments fail for 30–40% percent of patients, but there's a promising potential cure. A drug called metformin is already used to treat hyperglycaemia in people with type 2 diabetes. It works by blocking the electron transport chain, which is part of the process of respiration that converts energy from the sugars in food into a form that an organism can use. Metformin also prevents the liver from producing more sugars, which means that the parasite can’t get enough energy to survive. Because of its ability to block energy release, metformin is also being tested in combatting cancer cells, which use a lot of energy.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.