In an astonishing discovery, scientists have found out that the asteroid that led to the wiping out of dinosaurs might possess chemicals that can kill cancer cells. The study indicates that a rare metal named iridium found in the dinosaur-killing asteroid can be an effective candidate for the treatment of cancer. The latest results were found out from a research jointly done by the scientists of the University of Warwick, US and Sun Yat-Sen University in China.

Researchers from the Professor Sadler and Professor O’Connor groups in Warwick’s Department of Chemistry and Professor Hui Chao’s group at Sun Yat-Sen have demonstrated that iridium – the world’s second densest metal – can be used to kill cancer cells by filling them with a deadly version of oxygen, without harming healthy tissue. This rare iridium metal was delivered to earth by a 10-km wide asteroid that crashed into Earth around 66 million years ago.

For the research, the team prepared a compound of iridium and organic materials and then inserted it into a lung cancer tumor grown in the laboratory. Then they passed the red laser light through the skin and saw that the compound got activated and converted the oxygen in the tumor skin into singlet oxygen a poisonous form of the element that effectively kills the cancer cells from the inside. The research team used ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry to figure out which proteins in the cancer cells were being targeted. They discovered that the compound had destroyed proteins that manage heat shock stress and glucose metabolism, which are the main drivers of cancerous cells.

Also, the researchers applied this iridium compound on a clump of noncancerous tissue and found out that the compound had no effect on it. That means this iridium-based treatment does not attack healthy cells. This latest research, studied further can prove to be beneficial in Cancer treatment as the deadly disease is found to be resistant to certain modern day treatments.

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Born in Florida, brought up in New York, Mark Watson contributes as an editor is best known for his research on astronomy and his love for the satellites.

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