A rare metal first discovered in 1803 may eradicate deadly tumors in the body. Current research from the University of Warwick UK and Sun Yat-Sen University suggests Iridium, part of the platinum family of metals, can attack cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. A report by Tech Times has shed a lot of additional light on the situation and provided that research for mass consumption.

Cancer-fighting material from outer space

Iridium is not usually found naturally on the surface of the planet. Instead, the yellowish metal comes from outer space, essentially riding on meteors that eventually fall to Earth.

A large amount of iridium was deposited 66 million years ago when the Chicxulub asteroid, the giant rock that wiped out the dinosaurs, smashed into the Earth.

Killing tumors with light and metal

For a recent study, researchers used iridium to fight cancer cells. They filled the uncommon metal with a noxious form of oxygen. The new compound, when injected with a red laser light, will directly target cancerous cells, but leave healthy ones alone. When scientists used the process on a laboratory-created lung tumor, proteins vital to cancer cells were destroyed. Healthy cells, also subjected to the experimental treatment, showed no signs of damage or deterioration.

New weapon in war against disease

Using a laser light, in a process called photochemotherapy, is fast becoming a popular method to deliver cancer treatment. As traditional methods to fight the disease are increasingly less effective, it is crucial scientists develop new technologies and treatments.

Dr. Pingyu Zhang, a co-author of the iridium cancer study, believes the technique will “lead to novel drugs with new mechanisms of action.” Finding better, less-invasive methods to treat the disease are desperately needed, according to Dr.

Zhang. While using iridium to fight cancer is relatively new, platinum is already used in many chemotherapies, per a statement from the researchers. Should this new technique using iridium prove effective in clinical trials, it would be a huge leap in the war to eradicate the deadly disease.

Rare and useful metal

Meaning “rainbow” in Latin, iridium is the most corrosion-resistant metal on Earth.

The metal has a hard, brittle texture and melts at 2,400 degrees Celsius. Iridium is used in many different industrial applications, such as in the manufacturing of pens, compass bearings, and some jewelry. The majority of naturally occurring Iridium is thought to be located in the Earth’s core.