A simple ingredient in extra-virgin olive oil can destroy human cancer cells while leaving healthy ones unaffected.

Scientists have known for a while that oleocanthal annihilates some cancer cells, but they weren’t exactly sure how. The theory was that the compound might target a key protein in the cancer cells that controls ‘cell death signals’, known as apoptosis.

“We needed to determine if oleocanthal was targeting that protein and causing the cells to die,” says Paul Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers and co-author of a new study published in Molecular and Cellular Oncology.


Destroyed in under an hour!

Scientists applied oleocanthal to cancer cells in that laboratory and discovered that they died very quickly, in under 60 minutes in fact. Under different studies and experiments, cell death took between 16 to 24 hours, so the researchers realized that something else had to be going on.

They discovered that the cancer cells were being destroyed by their own enzymes! The olecanthal was cutting holes into the vesicles inside the cancer cells, releasing waste cell material that poisoned the cells from the inside out. “Once you open one of those things, all hell breaks loose,” Breslin says.

What is even more amazing is that the compound does not harm healthy cells and essentially “puts them to sleep” temporarily, Breslin says. After only one day the healthy cells are back to normal and resume their cycles.

Much more research needs to be done before human trials but considering this breakthrough’s ability to leave normal cells intact but totally destroy cancer cells, the future looks promising.

The next logical next step is to go beyond laboratory conditions and “show that oleocanthal can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors in living animals”, says senior author David Foster of Hunter College. Animal trials are slated for future studies

Stay Curious – C.Costigan

Source: Rutgers

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