Anyone seen “I am legend”?
Well I did, and I very well remember the intro sequence (which is great by the way).
Ahhh, WTH, just take some two minutes and have a look at it, it will take you to the point of departure of what I’m going to talk about in the next couple of lines.
Done? Good. So lets talk about that. wouldn’t that be totally awesome? Having some tiny agent that would eradicate all those nasty cancer cells? Of course, we all know that in the movie this cure goes terribly wrong and mutates people into mean, killing zombies. Yeah, ain’t nobody got time for that, right? But hey, if you peek over to Star Trek you see all those cool things that have been invented for movies and were then turned into actual science and maybe even products, just think of the cell phone and the communicator, and vice versa.
Alright so we’ve seen the fictional side of it, lets have a look on the actual science part.
Because, if you think the movie idea is cool, then be prepared to be blown away. A group of scientist in New York just officially declared a bio-nuclear war on cancer. The group of amazing people around Wilber Quispe-Tintaya and Claudia Gravekamp modified a strain of Listeria monocytogenes, a human pathogen often found on food, that is usually succesfully suppressed by the immune system of healthy people, but can tackle you down too the loo for quite some time. If the immune system is weakened though, it can cause some more severe symptoms. And there is kind of the beauty of it actually. Because, in cancer cells that is what happens, the immune system is suppressed, otherwise the cancer couldn’t survive and would go into apoptosis or be destroyed. Now what those researchers in did was: they took a Listeria strain and modified it in a way to incorporate radioactive 188-Rhenium. Then they injedcted those modified cells into mice with pancreatic cancer.
And now it’s getting awesome. The bacteria are killed by the immune system of healthy cells, but can invade the immune suppressed cells of the metastases, sometimes even the primary tumor. By this 188Rhenium accumulates within the cancer cells to a degree that will effectively kill the cell and thus suppress furhter spreading and even reduce, possibly cure the actual cancer. Isn’t that cool?
Okay, admittedly, this is early stage research in mice. So it might not be possible to adapt that to humans. And it would still take years until it could actually be applied, not even thinking of the ethical and juristical problems that would arise from the pure idea of healing people by injecting them pathogens. But; we’ll never know, and in the end it could just turn out great.
Oh and one more cool thing about listeria: they look like comets when they move within the cells, or should we rather call it: little nuke-rockets? see the vid.