Researchers hope to use a plant virus to fight cancer cells
POSTED: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 11:45am
UPDATED: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 11:49am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — When you think of a virus, typically a cold or flu comes to mind. Viruses are all around us and chances are the last time you ate your veggies, you ate a virus, too.
Inside the Biomedical Engineering building at Case Western Reserve University Dr. Nicole Steinmetz and her team are taking the virus that attacks your greens and turning it into a cancer fighting time bomb.
She figured out a way to use a plant virus as a medicine container.
Open it up, put cancer fighting medicine inside, give it directions to attach to a type of cancer cell and let it go to work.
These are nanoparticles 2,000 times smaller than the width of the human hair.
"We've already shown that we can deliver these to brain tumors, breast tumors, colon cancer and prostate cancer," Dr. Steinmetz says.
When it comes to cancer treatment, nobody likes a needle or taking pills, so Dr. Steinmetz's students are also researching a way to put the virus back into its natural element, like salad greens and patients could eat their medicine for dinner.
"Plant viruses can be regarded as safe from a human health perspective they are naturally in the food chain so we've eaten plant viruses before," Dr. Steinmetz says.
But there's a big difference between eating some in your food and injecting a large amount container a cancer fighting medicine.
"We still need to evaluate potential side effects. They go to the tumor but where else do they go?" Dr. Steinmetz says.
The research is being done in mice right now and is showing potential, but it may take several years before it's ready for human trials.