Scientists have created a technique which can cause cancer cells to self-destruct by injecting them with salt.
Researchers from the University of Southampton are part of an international team that has helped to create a molecule that can cause cancer cells to die by carrying sodium and chloride ions into the cells.
Synthetic ion transporters have been created before but this is the first time researchers have demonstrated how an influx of salt into a cell triggers cell death.
These synthetic ion transporters, described this week in the journal Nature Chemistry, could point the way to new anti-cancer drugs while also benefiting patients with cystic fibrosis. Study co-author Professor Philip Gale, of the University of Southampton, said: "We found we can trigger cell death with salt."
Cells in the human body work hard to maintain a stable concentration of ions inside their cell membranes. Disruption of this delicate balance can trigger cells to go through apoptosis, known as programmed cell death, a mechanism the body uses to rid itself of damaged or dangerous cells.