Has it ever crossed your head that honeybees provide more than just honey?
Scientists from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research have come up with something that is truly astonishing.
A study was published in Nature Precision Oncology and found out that a specific substance in honeybees can fight against specific forms of breast cancer, especially triple-negative breast cancer. The substance is obtained from the venom of these insects and is pretty effective.
Do not be fooled by its name though as the venom is not “all-harming”. It has its benefits when it is used to treat central nervous system diseases, HIV, and varieties sorts of inflammation.
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Honeybees Were Put To The Test Against Bumblebees
312 bumblebees and honeybees’ venom were obtained and compared to see if they had the same results, which the bumblebees failed to do so. The honeybees and bumblebees were obtained from Perth Western Australia, Ireland, and England.
The aim of the research was to understand the anti-cancerous properties of honeybees venom and the compound, melittin, on different types of breast cancer.
“The bees were put to sleep with carbon dioxide and kept on ice before the venom barb was pulled out from the abdomen of the bee and the venom extracted by careful dissection,” Dr. Ciara Duffy said, who spent a long time investigating the benefits of venom.
An active compound is present in the honeybees’ venom which was reported to kill the resistant cancer cells. Intense cancer treatments, usually damage the healthy cells while completing their task but this substance caused little to no harm to the healthy cells.
A specific concentration of honeybee venom can induce 100% cancer cell death while having minimal effects on normal cells.
How Does The Compound Affect The Cancer Cells?
“We looked at how honeybee venom and melittin affect the cancer signaling pathways, the chemical messages that are fundamental for cancer cell growth and reproduction, and we found that very quickly these signaling pathways were shut down,” she stated.
The venom was tested on various clinical subtypes of breast cancer and took only 60 minutes to disrupt the integrity of the cell membranes. The melittin compound is expected to kill quite fast, as per the studies.
Dr. Duffy was quite curious to find out what would happen if the melittin compound was combined was the current chemotherapy medication. The results that were seen later were more potent.
“We found that melittin can be used with small molecules or chemotherapies, such as docetaxel, to treat highly-aggressive types of breast cancer. The combination of melittin and docetaxel was extremely efficient in reducing tumor growth in mice,” she explained.
Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken said “This is an incredibly exciting observation that melittin, a major component of honeybee venom, can suppress the growth of deadly breast cancer cells, particularly triple-negative breast cancer.
“Significantly, this study demonstrates how melittin interferes with signaling pathways within breast cancer cells to reduce cell replication. It provides another wonderful example of where compounds in nature can be used to treat human diseases,” he said.
The progress is currently at the premature stage and further investigation is required to know how to deliver the honeybees’ venom to the human body in a specific dose and also check for possible toxicities.