Cell killer enzyme could help cancer treatment
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.