Bee venom could be used to kill cancer tumours, scientists have found, and human trials could begin in as little as three years.
Bee, snake and scorpion venom could be used in fight against cancer after trials showed that the toxins can kill tumours.
Researchers have found the poison contained in insect stings or reptile bites kills breast and skin cancer cells in the lab.
And they have managed to encase the venom in a tiny particle which stops the poison leaking into the blood and harming the patient.
Dr Dipanjan Pan, of the University of Illinois, said: “We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory
"These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.
"The peptide toxins we made are so tightly packed within the nanoparticle that they don't leach out when exposed to the bloodstream and cause side effects.”
Venom from snakes, bees and scorpions contains proteins and peptides which can attach to the walls of cancer cells.
But it can also damage the heart and nerve cells and cause bleeding under the skin
“The main point is how we can control their potency. They are potent and that is why they are deadly,” added Dr Pan.
“If we can use that power in our favour that would be wonderful.”
The team identified a substance in bee venom called melittin that keeps the cancer cells from multiplying.
Bees make so little venom that it us not feasible to extract it and separate out the substance time after time for lab testing or for later clinical use so they synthesized melittin in the lab.
The team believes that venom from snakes or scorpions, will also work well in the nanoparticles as a possible cancer therapy.
They are hoping to begin human trials within three to five years.
The research was presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco.