Scientists unlock potential of frog skin to treat cancer
Professor Chris Shaw
Scientists at Queen's have discovered proteins in frog skins which could be used to treat cancer, diabetes, stroke and transplant patients by regulating the growth of blood vessels.
The award-winning research, led by Professor Chris Shaw at the School of Pharmacy, has identified two proteins, or ‘peptides’, which can be used in a controlled and targeted way to regulate 'angiogenesis' – the process by which blood vessels grow in the body. The discovery holds the potential to develop new treatments for more than seventy major diseases and conditions that affect more than one billion people worldwide.
The proteins are found in secretions on the skins of the Waxy Monkey Frog and the Giant Firebellied Toad. Scientists capture the frogs and gently extract the secretions, before releasing them back in to the wild. The frogs are not harmed in any way during this process.
Professor Shaw said: “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 tumours.
“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.”
Professor Chris Shaw and his colleagues, Professor Brian Walker and Dr Tianbao Chen were awarded the Commendation in the Cardiovasular Innovation Award at the Medical Futures Innovation Awards in London for their research.
The Awards are one of Europe’s most prestigious healthcare and business awards, rewarding innovative ideas from front line clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs. Professor Shaw’s team were the only entry from Northern Ireland to be successful at this year’s awards.
For more information on the Medical Futures Innovation Awards 2011, visit www.medicalfutures.co.uk