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Sharks against cancer

Squalamine, part of the shark immune system, could beat the cancer cells
Squalamine, part of the shark immune system, could beat the cancer cells

U.S. researchers from the Medical Center Georgetown University in Washington think they could help save the lives of many people through a substance named squalamine secreted by the liver of sharks. Already tested in the treatment of cancer, tumors and ophthalmology, this molecule was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Michael Zasloff, would also have antiviral activity as broad as powerful.

Professor Zasloff's team has shown beneficial effects - in vitro and in vivo in rodents - in the treatment of several diseases, including hepatitis, yellow fever, dengue fever or a form of herpes. The results of this study were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "This is a serious lead especially since it is a natural molecule, derived from a living organism," said Jean-Michel Brunel, a researcher at the CNRS in Marseille, who has worked for a dozen years on this substance and its derivatives. Also has been noted another virtue of the molecule - it is in fact a very good ally in the fight against bacteria, including those classified as multidrug resistant. An achievement-related mode of action of squalamine is totally different from other known antibiotics.

"You should know that squalamine for the shark is a part of the immune system and this is why Professor Zasloff was interested. Initially, he sought to understand why this animal developed very rare tumor and cancer," said the scientist. "The way the substance acts in virology is not yet clear, but it seems that the molecule attacks the membrane of infected cells, killing the virus. In contrast, healthy cells remain very insensitive to the activity of squalamine," said Jean-Michel Brunel.

The best result is that the research team of Professor Zasloff U.S. could be quickly harvested. On the one hand because scientists already know how to synthesize the molecule in the laboratory, on the other hand because it has been administered in oncology and ophthalmology, with thousands of American patients.

"Currently, in the United States, it is in phase 3 tests (the last before the placing on the market) for the treatment of ovarian cancer and age-related macular degeneration. This means that all the security in terms of toxicity have already met," said Jean-Michel Brunel. "The ideal now would be to succeed in changing the molecule to make it more active and it will, of course, determine optimal doses," added the researcher.


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