Sydney, April 6 :
Tobacco has been associated with and much maligned for causing cancers. Researchers have now found that the tobacco plant’s defence mechanism could well work in humans to destroy invading cancer cells.
A molecule called NaD1 is found in the flower of the tobacco plant that fights off fungi and bacteria.
This compound also has the ability to identify and destroy cancer, the team discovered.
“This is a welcome discovery whatever the origin,” Mark Hulett from La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in Melbourne was quoted as saying.
The molecule, found in nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco) plant, forms a pincer-like structure that grips onto lipids present in the membrane of cancer cells.
It then effectively rips them open, causing the cell to expel its contents and explode.
According to researchers, this universal defence process could also potentially be harnessed for the development of antibiotic treatment for microbial infections.
The pre-clinical work is being conducted by the Melbourne biotechnology company Hexima.
“The preliminary trials have looked promising,” said Hulett.
The study was published in the journal eLife.