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Buzz Killer
22 September 2015

Buzz Killer

Wasp stings are the stuff of nightmares; however, researchers have found they also have a potential benefit. A molecule in the venom of the wasp Polybia paulista, native to South America, targets and destroys human cancer cells. The cancer-targeting molecule – MP1 – takes advantage of the abnormal arrangement of phospholipids in the membranes of cancerous cells. In healthy cells, the phospholipids PS and PE are found on the inner layer of the cell membrane but, in cancerous cells, they aggregate in the outer layer – represented here as bright fluorescence spots in these lab-created membranes – creating weak points. MP1 interacts with PS and PE, forming holes in the cell membrane where essential proteins leak out, killing the cell. This novel interaction is a first for anti-cancer drugs, and could be effective when used as a combination therapy with other drugs.

Written by Katie Panteli

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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