Could the cure to cancer be malaria? It certainly seems that way, according to new research.
While attempting to find a way to protect pregnant women against malaria, Danish researchers accidentally discovered something else: Malaria attacks the placenta of pregnant women, but it may also attack cancerous tumors.
The malaria protein attaches itself to a carbohydrate found only in placentas and tumors. So, researchers believe it could attack cancerous growths in a person's body as if they were placentas.
University of Copenhagen researcher Ali Salanti explained,
For decades, scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor. The placenta is an organ, which within a few months grows from only [a] few cells into an organ weighing approx. two pounds, and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. In a manner of speaking, tumors do much the same. They grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment.
So far, the process was only tested on mice. Researchers hope to be able to to start testing this vaccine on humans within four years, according to the Independent.
For those unfamiliar, malaria has long posed a huge risk to pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if pregnant women get malaria they're at very high risks for mortality (as are their unborn babies).
Although researchers are still trying to fully understand it, they believe this increased mortality rate is probably a combination of the attack the infection launches on the placenta and the fact malaria weakens the immune system.
Yep, malaria is a scary thing. So, keep your fingers crossed it does indeed have the silver lining of fighting cancer.