A synthetic version of a molecule found in the egg cells of the Northern Leopard frog (Rana pipiens) could provide the world with the first drug treatment for brain tumours.
Known as Amphinase, the molecule recognises the sugary coating found on a tumour cell and binds to its surface before invading the cell and inactivating the RNA it contains, causing the tumour to die.
In new research published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, scientists from the University of Bath (UK) and Alfacell Corporation (USA) describe the first complete analysis of the structural and chemical properties of the molecule.
Although it could potentially be used as a treatment for many forms of cancer, Amphinase offers greatest hope in the treatment of brain tumours, for which complex surgery and chemotherapy are the only current treatments.
This is a very exciting molecule, said Professor Ravi Acharya, from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at the University of Bath.
It is rather like Mother Natures very own magic bullet for recognising and destroying cancer cells.
It is highly specific at hunting and destroying tumour cells, is easily synthesised in the laboratory and offers great hope as a therapeutic treatment of the future.
Amphinase is a version of a ribonuclease enzyme that has been isolated from the oocytes (egg cells) of the Northern Leopard frog.
Ribonucleases are a common type of enzyme found in all organisms. They are responsible for tidying up free-floating strands of RNA cells by latching on to the molecule and cutting it into smaller sections.
In areas of the cell where the RNA is needed for essential functions, ribonucleases are prevented from working by inhibitor molecules. But because Amphinase is an amphibian ribonuclease, it can evade the mammalian inhibitor molecules to attack the cancer cells.