(eradicating cancer, one poop at a time)
By itself, the single-celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is bad news because it can cause illness in infected people and cats. It thrives in the intestines of cats and then comes out the other end.
But scientists at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have figured out a way to engineer a new version of the parasite that they say has remarkable cancer-fighting powers.
“We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer,” explained David J. Bzik, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth.
“The biology of this organism is inherently different from other microbe-based (treatments) that typically just tickle immune cells from the outside,” said senior research associate Barbara Fox. “By gaining preferential access to the inside of powerful innate immune cell types, our mutated strain of T. gondii reprograms the natural power of the immune system to clear tumor cells and cancer.”
The mutated parasite is called “cps.” Lab tests show that it’s non-replicating and safe to use. Even if the recipient has a weakened immune system, as often happens with chemotherapy, cps still retains its cancer-fighting powers in the body.
Read more over at DISCOVERY NEWS