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Proteins In Frog Skin Could Help Treat Cancer

June 7, 2011

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have discovered that proteins in frog skins could be used to treat cancer, diabetes, stroke and transplant patients by regulating the growth of blood vessels.

The researchers identified two proteins, or “peptides”, which can be used in a controlled and targeted way to regulate “angiogenesis.”  The discovery holds the potential to develop new treatments for more than seventy major diseases and conditions that affect over a billion people worldwide.

Scientists captured the frogs and extracted the secretions before releasing them back into the wild. 

Chris Shaw, a professor at Queen’s School of Pharmacy who led the research, said in a statement: “The proteins that we have discovered have the ability to either stimulate or inhibit the growth of blood vessels. By ‘switching off’ angiogenesis and inhibiting blood vessel growth, a protein from the Waxy Monkey Frog has the potential to kill cancer tumors.”

Shaw said most cancer tumors can only grow to a certain size before they need blood vessels to grow into the tumor to supply it with oxygen and nutrients.

Stopping the blood vessels from growing will cause the tumor to be less likely to spread, and could eventually kill it.

This effect has the potential to transform cancer from a terminal illness into a chronic condition.

“On the other hand, a protein from the Giant Firebellied Toad has been found to ‘switch on’ angiogenesis and stimulate blood vessel growth. This has the potential to treat an array of diseases and conditions that require blood vessels to repair quickly, such as wound healing, organ transplants, diabetic ulcers, and damage caused by strokes or heart conditions,” Shaw said in a statement.

He said “Because of its huge potential, angiogenesis has been a prime target for drugs development research over the past forty years. But despite an investment of around $4-5 billion by scientists and drugs companies around the world, they have yet to develop a drug that can effectively target, control and regulate the growth of blood vessels.

“The aim of our work at Queen’s is to unlock the potential of the natural world ““ in this case the secretions found on frog and toad skins – to alleviate human suffering. We are absolutely convinced that the natural world holds the solutions to many of our problems, we just need to pose the right questions to find them.

“It would be a great shame to have something in nature that is potentially the wonder drug to treat cancer and not aim to do everything in our power to make it work.”

The researchers will receive the Commendation in the Cardiovascular Innovation Award at the Medical Future Innovation Awards in London Tuesday night. 

The award is one of Europe’s most prestigious healthcare and business awards.

Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said in a statement, congratulating the team on their research: “This award is not only an honor for Professor Shaw and his team, it is recognition of the world-class research taking place at Queen’s School of Pharmacy, and the life-changing potential of the University’s work in drug discovery.”

Image Caption: Waxy Tree Frog Phyllomedusa sauvagii at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, England. Credit: Adrian Pingstone/Wikipedia  

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