'Nanobees' Sting Cancer Cells

Scientists abuzz over treatment using bee venom and nanoparticles
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2009 4:58 AM CDT
A bee-venom ingredient attached to nanoparticles shrank or destroyed tumors in dozens of mice.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Scientists working to harness the power of bee venom in the fight against cancer have created "nanobees" that can actually sting a tumor to death. Melittin, an ingredient in bee venom with anti-tumor properties, was attached to tiny spheres that sought out and attacked cancerous cells in mice. Previous efforts to use bee venom to fight cancer failed because it attacked healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, notes the Wall Street Journal.

The nanobees were injected into the bloodstream of mice with tumors and circulated until they found cells to attack.  "The nanoparticle attaches itself to the cell of choice and then the melittin material comes off the particle and goes directly into the cell, without going into the bloodstream. It's like an injection," one researcher explained. The nanobee technology has been licensed to a biotech firm that hopes to start trials on humans within a couple of years.