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'Smart bomb' delivery destroys tumors in mice

Rehovot, Israel -- December 29, 2003 -- Weizmann Institute scientists have destroyed malignant tumors in mice using a chemical that occurs naturally in garlic. The key to the scientists' success lies in the development of a unique, two-step system for delivering the cancer-wrecking chemical straight to the tumor cells.

Allicin, as the chemical is called, is the substance that gives garlic its distinctive aroma and flavor. For many years, scientists studying allicin have known that it is as toxic as it is pungent. It has been shown to kill not only cancer cells, but the cells of disease-causing microbes, and even healthy human body cells. Fortunately for our body's cells, allicin is highly unstable, and breaks down quickly once ingested. However, the rapid breakdown and undiscriminating toxicity presented twin hurdles to creating an allicin-based therapy.

At the Weizmann Institute's Biological Chemistry Department, Drs. Aharon Rabinkov, Talia Miron and Marina Mironchick, working with Profs. David Mirelman and Meir Wilchek, have solved both these problems by designing an ingenious delivery method that works with the pinpoint accuracy of a smart bomb. Their findings were reported in the December issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

The method parallels the way allicin is synthesized in nature. Not present in whole, unbroken cloves of garlic, allicin is the product of a biochemical reaction between two substances stored apart in tiny, adjoining compartments within each clove. The two are an enzyme, alliinase, and a normally inert chemical called alliin. When the clove is damaged, whether by soil parasites intending to eat the tender tissues, or by cooks making sauce, the membranes separating the compartments are ruptured and rapid allicin production follows. The scientists realized that if doses of allicin could be repeatedly generated in this way at the site of the tumor, the highest concentration of the toxic molecules would be available f
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Contact: Nicole Marshal
nicole@acwis.org
212-895-7950
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
29-Dec-2003


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