Iridium: Destroy cancer cells…?
Researchers have claimed that a metal from the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs can be used to target and destroy cancer cells.
According to new research by an international collaboration between the University of Warwick and Sun Yat-Sen University in China, iridium – a rare metal delivered to Earth by the asteroid – can kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
According to a press release by the University of Warwick, the team developed a compound of iridium and organic material that, when injected into cancer cells, turns the oxygen inside them into a poison known as ‘singlet oxygen’. This is then able to kill the disease without harming any healthy tissue.
Iridium, which is the second densest metal, has a melting point of 2,447 degrees Celsius. It was discovered by scientists in the 1980s that an unusual abundance of iridium in certain layers of the Earth’s crust indicates that its presence coincides with the giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. This is not the main source of Earth’s supplies of Iridium however, with ore containing the element being mined in a number of countries around the world. It’s certainly now time to try to make good medical use of the iridium delivered to us by an asteroid 66 million years ago!”
Unfortunately, iridium is pretty rare, though we’ve found a few spots on Earth that contain it. But even if there isn’t enough iridium in the world to treat all our cancer patients, perhaps utilising it will help scientists over time build a synthetic counterpart that can do the job just as well.
Although the research is in its very early stages and the compound has only been used on a model that mimics cancer.