Scientists battle brain tumors with scorpion venom - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Scientists battle brain tumors with scorpion venom

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(NBC) - Scientist are hoping a new weapon could help them fight brain tumors: scorpion venom.

Molecules pulled from scorpion toxin do in fact kill brain tumors, but researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah have had difficulty getting the stuff to its target.

"I would like to revisit that again, and I think some of the problems that have been experienced in a lot of drugs that we've tested is that they are not just delivered properly," said the Huntsman Institute's Dr. Randy Jensen.

But scientists at the University of Washington have now found if you combine the scorpion molecule with nanoparticles, you cut the spread of cancer cells not by a mere 45 percent, but by 98 percent.

"If they can get better delivery and get more efficacy of the delivery of the drug, then a new clinical trial, I'm sure, would be the next step after that," Jensen said.

A nanoparticle is a very small molecule that helps another molecule (such as one found in a drug) do a specific job.

How small is small? A red blood cell is a teeny six microns. Thousands of nanoparticles could fit inside a single red blood cell.

"These nanoparticles sort of shield them around, form circles around the drug that you want to deliver and allow it to pass through the blood-brain barrier," Jensen said.

Nanoparticles can lead a drug, such as one made from scorpion toxin, to specific cells. They can also image the drug, showing researchers exactly where it's going.

Researchers at the University of Washington experimented only with cells grown in the lab.

They'll now move to mice to see if they get the same dramatic results there.

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