Pesky Beetle Could Hold Cancer Key

Scientists crack code of enzyme that helps cells multiply limitlessly
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2008 1:03 PM CDT
Researchers hope the breakthrough will help more precise treatments for cancer than most chemotherapies, which aim to kill an entire cancer cell and are often toxic to healthy tissue as well.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – An insect that’s a scourge in Southern kitchens could help scientists develop drugs to treat human cancer, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In studying  the red flour beetle, scientists were able to decode an enzyme called telomerase, which triggers a cell's ability to multiply timelessly, playing an active role in 85% of all cancers.

Scientists  hope the breakthrough, which one called a “technical tour de force,” will lead to more precise cancer treatments than chemotherapy, which often harms healthy tissue. It could also rejuvenate fatigued cells, sparking hopes for a medical fountain of youth.