Scientists are exploring a new way to deliver cancer drugs to tumors — sperm. The reason? Delivering cancer drugs to the affected cells have always posed a challenge. Typical chemotherapy is poisonous to both cancer cells and healthy cells, and it causes side-effects like nausea and hair loss. Also, as Science Daily reports, sometimes the cancer drugs don’t penetrate the tissues deeply enough. They can also be weakened through interactions with body fluids or diverted by healthy organs. There have been experiments that have tested bacteria to transport the cancer drugs. They can effectively carry the medicine, but the microbes tend to be killed off by the human immune system.
So, scientists from Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany have turned to testing sperm. The results of the study have been published in the journal ACS Nano. They used bovine sperm cells to carry the cancer drugs to cervical tumors in the lab. They loaded the sperm with doxorubicin, a common chemotherapy drug, and attached them to miniature magnetic harnesses, which allowed them to be directed to the tumor with magnets. The sperm merged with the cancer cells and unleashed the drug. After it was released in the thousands, the sperm was able to destroy more than 85 percent of the cancer. They did this without losing much of the drugs they were carrying along the way.
The breakdown of the cancer cells took about three days, New Scientist reports.
According to Science Daily, there’s still some work to be done before the results in the lab can be transferred to animals and humans.
One of the lead authors of the study stated that it could be used to treat conditions in women other than cancer, including endometriosis and ectopic pregnancies. As the abstract of the study reads, sperm cells are ideal delivery vehicles for cancer drugs because they do not contain “pathogenic proteins.” They also don’t multiply to form “undesirable colonies,” which can happen when other cells or microorganisms are used. Because of the targetted approach of this therapy, you would also avoid the consequences that regular chemotherapy incurs such as the death of the healthy cells along with the cancer cells.