“This is a welcome discovery whatever the origin,” Mark Hulett from La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in Melbourne was quoted as saying.
The molecule, found in nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco) plant, forms a pincer-like structure that grips onto lipids present in the membrane of cancer cells.
It then effectively rips them open, causing the cell to expel its contents and explode.
According to researchers, this universal defence process could also potentially be harnessed for the development of antibiotic treatment for microbial infections.
The pre-clinical work is being conducted by the Melbourne biotechnology company Hexima. “The preliminary trials have looked promising,” said Hulett.
The study was published in the journal eLife.