Fighting Cancer With a Tree

Israeli researchers have discovered a readily-available substance contained in the poplar tree which can be used to combat cancerous tumors.

, | updated: 16:19

The researchers, from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, have successfully identified and isolated a new protein from the poplar tree with special structural and qualitative characteristics. These can be used in the future development of nanocapsules, enabling drug delivery to cancer cells.

Called SP-1, the protein has a nanometric, 'bagel-shaped' structure, which is extremely stable. It has been found to be capable of surviving contact with enzymes that break down proteins or exposure to extreme conditions such as boiling, excessive acidity, salinity, organic solvents or detergent solutions.

Because the protein is obtained from plant tissue, it can be produced in large quantities, making it highly available for medicinal or other applications.

The research was conducted at the university's Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences in Rehovot by Prof. Arie Altman, head of the faculty's Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, and Prof. Oded Shoseyov. Also participating were Dr. Wangxia Wang, Dr. Dan Pelah, and the scientists of Fulcrum SP Ltd. - Dr. Amnon Wolf, Dr. Ira Marton and Dr. Yonatan Puny.

Professors Altman and Shoseyov told Globes that the SP-1 protein serves to assist in creating a properly folded and functioning structure of other proteins within the plant’s cells. The SP-1 also has the ability to assemble itself into a structure composed of 12 identical units, making it exceptionally resistant to extreme conditions. These qualities are rarely found among proteins, and make the SP-1 a promising candidate for a multiplicity of uses in developing medicinal applications in the rapidly growing field of nanobiotechnology.