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Sperm to treat cancer

Sperm to treat cancers of the reproductive system
Sperm to treat cancers of the reproductive system

Scientists at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Dresden, Germany have come up with an innovative and potentially effective procedure for treating cancers of the reproductive system in women.

The new approach involves using sperm that’s been loaded with chemotherapy drugs to target cancer cells because of its ability to propel itself through the reproductive tract.

A major challenge for cancer research is to deliver powerful medication to the cancer cell without damaging surrounding healthy cells.

One of the options trialled by researchers was using bacteria as a delivery vehicle given their ability to penetrate the body easily.

However, the problem with this procedure is that inside the body, the immune system often reacted to the bacteria as an invader and attacked destroyed them before they reached their destination.

Sperm on the other hand does not have the same problem as bacteria – it does not get attacked by the immune system because it is coated with glycoproteins which are recognised by all human immune systems.

The technique using sperm involves modification of each individual sperm by first soaking them in a chemotherapy drug, and then covering each sperm in a miniature metal harness coated with an iron solution.

Inside the vagina the sperm propels itself towards the cervix, while the researchers using ultrasound imaging and a magnet held over the pelvis are able to steer and target the payload because of the iron solution.

The sperm easily penetrates the malignant cells in much the same way that fertilisation occurs a single sperm and egg, and in this situation the sperm’s harness lock on to the cancer cell releasing the drug on impact.

After releasing the drug, the harness is broken down and flushed out of the body.

The lab trials with cancer cells in a dish and bull sperm which is very similar to human sperm demonstrated remarkable accuracy in finding and destroying the cancer cells.

The researchers hope to extend the trials to cancer patients within five years after conducting further experiments with human sperm.

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