Cell killer enzyme could help cancer treatment

March 6th, 2011 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 6 (IANS) An enzyme that can push cells into committing “suicide” could pave way for improved cancer drugs.

The discovery could open the way to better anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs that target the enzyme “caspase 8,” described as “the killer you can’t live without”.

This enzyme plays a key role in apoptosis, a form of “cellular suicide” important for the development of all multi-cellular organisms, and in defence against viral infections, the journal Nature reports.

Surprisingly, “caspase 8″ appears to have two functions: One that initiates apoptosis and a second that restrains an independent programmed death pathway, says study author Ed Mocarski, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University.

In humans, a lack of “caspase 8″ has been linked to immune disorders and skin diseases such as eczema, while too much “caspase 8″ activity has been connected with diabetes, according to a statement from the university.

Besides, several experimental anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs aim to alter “caspase 8″ levels in order to induce death in cancer cells or reduce inflammation.

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