(NaturalNews) Increasingly, researchers believe the next big scientific breakthrough in terms of treating a number of existing diseases will come from natural ingredients, and as such they are focusing their efforts in that direction.
Along those lines, scientists from the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology at PolyTechnic University in Hong Kong think they have discovered a breakthrough in terms of cancer treatment using Tiger Milk mushrooms from Africa.
According to researchers, a natural element found in the mushrooms "could hold the key to a new class of cancer drugs," Science Daily reported.
Dr. Wong Ka-hing, the associate director of the Food Safety and Technology Research Center, and his research team have found a polysaccharide-protein complex (PSP) in the Tiger Milk mushrooms that can turn selenium - a common nutrient - into a new cancer therapy that could potentially benefit millions of breast cancer patients the world over.
Lab results were exciting
A trace mineral that is essential for good health, selenium boosts immune systems against viral infections, among other benefits. Some of our staple foods and vegetables - rice, broccoli, onions, etc. - are great sources of antioxidant.
In nano-size, reports said, selenium was found to have a powerful anti-cancer effect in the lab, but efficacy fell off as the nano-particles fell back into larger aggregates which in turn suppressed the up-take into cancer cells.
Finding new ways and/or better compounds to stop the rebinding process has proven more difficult than first assumed. Quite literally, say researchers, it is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
So, the use of mushroom PSP as a stabilizing force is a very momentous breakthrough. When combined with the cutting-edge nanotechnology, Wong and his team successfully caused selenium nanoparticles to destroy breast cancer cells.
"Lab-test results were exciting. Our selenium nanoparticles were found to have remarkable inhibition effect on the growth of human breast cancer cells by triggering the cells into self-destruction. The next stage will be tests on animals," Wong said.
Mushroom PSP 'has striking effects'
As most would think, research on this technique is clearly still in its infancy. But if ultimately successful, it could eventually lead to a new drug that is much more reliable and far less toxic than standard cancer treatments. Such a drug would be capable of destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy tissues unharmed; that would translate into fewer painful side effects, much greater patient comfort and enhanced recovery percentages.
Wong says he is also planning on developing a dietary supplement as an auxiliary cancer treatment.
Science Daily reported that researchers from the world over have been examining the therapeutic value of foods such as fish, oil, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and green tea. To be safe for human consumption, any natural ingredient must be effective against cancer in a low concentration. Wong's work has advanced this medicinal aspect by developing a working tool that boosts the effectiveness of a natural cancer-killing compound.
"Mushroom PSP has striking effects on controlling selenium nanoparticles and a better understanding of this mechanism may help us find the next suitable compounds and make better nano-medicines for a whole host of cancers," Wong said.
Tiger Milk mushrooms, which are similar to Chinese mushrooms that are found in several dishes and soups, are commonplace in Africa. This groundbreaking research could open the door to the production of an effective cancer drug that would be made from 100 percent natural ingredients there.
In addition, the drug development process is all-natural and "green," in that it takes place in room temperature with water, in which there is little waste and little power consumption.