CEBU

South American frog ‘poison’ studied for cancer cure

SOMETIMES, poisons can be great destroyers of infectious microorganisms. The history of pharmaceutical discoveries is replete with poisonous substances that have been transformed into effective medications. Here is a research breakthrough that came out just in the second half of this month. It was published in the “Journal for Cellular and Molecular Medicine” on Nov. 20.

The study pertains to a new peptide called “dermaseptin-PS1,” which scientists isolated from the skin of the waxy monkey tree frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagei). The substance came from the granular glands of the frog’s skin, which secretes self-protective poisons.

The frog’s skin is popular for its bacteriostatic (bacteria-resisting) and bactericidal (bacteria-killing) activities. The researchers, however, attempted to extend the therapeutic application of dermaseptin-PS1 from bacteria to cancer, particularly brain cancers and specifically human malignant (Grade III to IV) glioblastoma multiforme.

The researchers are working either in Queen’s University Belfast’s Natural Drug Discovery Group (Qilin Long, Lei Li, Miaoran Li, Lei Wang, Mei Zhou and Tianbao Chen) or the Institute for Global Food Security (Qiaozhu Su)—or both (Hao Wang and Yuxin Wu).

The team observed that a concentration of 0.00001 moles per liter of dermaseptin-PS1 can disrupt the cancer cells’ membrane, inducing a self-destruction process by bursting (apoptosis). A lower concentration of 0.000001 moles per liter cannot demonstrate this effect.

This study, however, is still at the laboratory level, thus, not yet tested with human volunteers. The scientists are using preserved tissue cells from a person with malignant glioblastoma multiforme. This means that the peptide still has a long way to go before it can be testable with human beings.

By the way, the waxy monkey tree frog is native in South America, particularly in Argentina (Pope Francis’s homeland), Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. Due to the relatively similar climate between these countries and the Philippines, I hope we can find these frogs here. Who knows, our Filipino scientists may try to conduct their own studies.


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