Wasp stings are the stuff of nightmares; however, researchers have found they also have a potential benefit. A molecule in the venom of the wasp Polybia paulista, native to South America, targets and destroys human cancer cells. The cancer-targeting molecule – MP1 – takes advantage of the abnormal arrangement of phospholipids in the membranes of cancerous cells. In healthy cells, the phospholipids PS and PE are found on the inner layer of the cell membrane but, in cancerous cells, they aggregate in the outer layer – represented here as bright fluorescence spots in these lab-created membranes – creating weak points. MP1 interacts with PS and PE, forming holes in the cell membrane where essential proteins leak out, killing the cell. This novel interaction is a first for anti-cancer drugs, and could be effective when used as a combination therapy with other drugs.
Written by Katie Panteli
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.