Chillies might become the new anti-cancer food. A new study conducted by scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology of Madras suggests that its characteristic compound, capsaicin which is responsible for chilli’s heat, might be used in cancer treatments in the future. The findings have been published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.
Capsaicin has been the focus of several studies in the past. For instance, it was shown to kill prostate cancer cells in a 2006 study. The question that has remained unanswered until now is as to how does it bring about cancer cell death while keeping healthy cells untouched: the new study addresses this particular issue.
The researchers demonstrated how capsaicin binds to a cancer cell thereby triggering changes inside of it. This discovery might pave the way to harnessing the beneficial effects of the compound and translating them into therapies.
The interactions of capsaicin with cell membranes were observed by monitoring its natural fluorescence. The compound adheres to the surface of a cancer cell, and then enters into the membrane. Its presence inside the cell triggers chemical changes. The right dose of capsaicin will cause the membranes to tear apart.
The molecular pathway that brings about this reaction has not yet been completely deciphered though. Further experimenting will be needed to find ways to reproduce this effect in cancer therapies.