Asteroid that killed dinosaurs could help cure cancer
Iridium can be used to kill cancer cells by filling them with a deadly version of oxygen which doesn't harm healthy tissue. University of Warwick UKPress Release of University of Warwick UKUniversity of Warwick UK
Scientists have announced that cancer cells can be targeted and killed using iridium, a metallic chemical element delivered to Earth in the asteroid or comet that killed off the dinosaurs, reports China’s Science and Technology Daily.
The research was conducted by scientists from the UK's University of Warwick and Sun Yat-Sen University in China. Their findings were recently published in the Angewandte Chemie journal.
According to a press release by the University of Warwick, the team developed a compound of iridium and organic material that, when injected into cancer cells, turns the oxygen inside them into a poison known as 'singlet oxygen'. This is then able to kill the disease without harming any healthy tissue.
Although the research is in its very early stages and the compound has only been used on a model that mimics cancer, Cookson Chiu, co-author of the findings, commented that “this project is a leap forward in understanding how these new iridium-based anti-cancer compounds are attacking cancer cells and introducing different mechanisms of action to get around the resistance issue and tackle cancer from a different angle.”
Iridium, which is the second densest metal, has a melting point of 2,447 degrees Celsius. It was discovered by scientists in the 1980s that an unusual abundance of iridium in certain layers of the Earth's crust indicates that its presence coincides with the giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. This is not the main source of Earth's supplies of Iridium however, with ore containing the element being mined in a number of countries around the world.
Weida Li has been a staff editor at GBTIMES since 2017.