Sea Squirt Bacteria Destroys Cancer DNA by Hacking It to Bits

Cancer

Scientists at Yale have published an exciting new study in which they reveal that a rare bacteria byproduct from sea squirts destroys cancer DNA by hacking and cutting it to bits. The study was published over the weekend in the journal Nature Chemistry. The find has sent waves of excitement through the medical community because the discovery might pave the way to new chemotherapy treatments that are much lower in dosage than the traditional chemotherapies currently available.

Scientists have been looking at sea squirts and other types of marine life for answers to numerous diseases as far back as 35 years ago. In 1992, an article was published in the LA Times in which the author outlined some potential treatments that were being investigated at that time. In that year, only about 50 scientists around the world were involved in researching potential cures from the sea.

As far back as at least 2001, researchers knew that the bacterial byproduct of sea squirts, which is called lomaiviticin A, could destroy cancer cells, but the exact mechanism by which they did so baffled scientists for over a decade. Now, the researchers at Yale have solved that mystery by discovering that sea squirt bacteria destroys cancer DNA by hacking it to bits.

What makes the lomaiviticin A so deadly to cancer cell DNA is the cutting and hacking mechanism it employs. The molecule actually acts like a pair of sharp scissors and hacks through the double strands of DNA at one time. Like a stealthy, lethal murderer, the magic molecule performs the delicate surgery with excellent precision; pulling a Dexter-style cutting job on the cancer DNA and causing it to die.

The scientists compared the action of the molecule on cancer DNA to a person trimming vines or weeds and holding two strands in the hand while chopping them both at the same time. Indeed, the severed DNA looks as though it has been cut cleanly with a pair of scissors.

This discovery is a major development in the field of cancer research because prior to this study being completed, researchers were in the dark about exactly how the sea squirt bacteria could exert such a deadly action on cancer cells at the DNA level.

Currently, there are very few cancer treatments that can perform a similar action on the cancer DNA, and the treatments which are now available inhibit cancer in other ways. However, hacking cancer’s DNA to bits is the most effective way to destroy cancer.

Now that researchers have finally discovered exactly what makes the sea squirt and its bacteria so very deadly to cancer, they can move forward with trying to create new medicines including low-dose chemotherapy that might be able to destroy the cancer cells while minimizing damage to a person’s healthy cells. One of the main drawbacks of current chemotherapy treatments is that those medicines kill both malignant and healthy cells, resulting in a large list of dangerous side effects up to and including death.

Sea squirt bacteria destroys cancer DNA by hacking it to bits; and now that scientists know that, it’s time to delve into further extensive research to turn the discovery into new medicinal approaches to fighting cancer.

By: Rebecca Savastio

Sources:

Phys.org

LA Times

Nature

Science Daily

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