The Quinghaosu is the Chinese mugwort Artemisia annua which is extracted artemisinin, a molecule known for over 2,000 years and rediscovered in 1972 in the fight against malaria, but also cancer.
Henry Lai and Narendra Singh of the University of Washington have demonstrated the drug's effectiveness against cancer cells. The results are incredibly optimistic. In the journal Life Sciences, the researchers describe how artemisinin kills all cells of breast cancer in sixteen hours. "Not only the drug is effective but is very selective, said Henry Lai. It is highly toxic to cancer cells but have minimal impact on normal cells. "
Used for 30 years against Plasmodium malaria, artemisinin reacts with metal ions present in high concentration in the parasite. Very active, cancer cells also possess a lot of membrane receptors for increasing metal ion concentration inside the cell.
The researchers had the idea of using artemisinin to kill these diseased cells. The results already impressive against breast cancer seem more positive against leukemia since in this case, all abnormal cells to die in eight hours. "These are cancer cells among the most concentrated metal ions," says Henry Lai who continues, "It is fascinating to think that this plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine for two thousand years, we have it just found a new application .
We too often tend to underestimate the tremendous therapeutic potential of plants in the fight against cancer but do not forget that nature has had time, over millions of years to develop mechanisms of action very sophisticated against tumors. "
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