‘Heat’ compound from chilli peppers could help kill cancer cells


By NewsGram Staff Writer

Chennai: Capsaicin, the compound responsible for chillies’ heat and also used in creams sold to relieve pain if taken in high doses can kill prostate cancer cells. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, have worked out a process wherein the compound responsible for chillies’ heat can be put to yet another effective use.

In this study, researchers Ashok Kumar Mishra and Jitendriya Swain found that, in high doses, the compound causes cell membranes to come apart.

About 10 years ago, researchers reported that capsaicin can kill prostate cancer cells in mice while leaving healthy cells unharmed. But translating that dose for humans would require them to eat a huge number of chili peppers per day.

So the researchers tried to gain a deeper understanding of capsaicin’s effects so it might be harnessed in the future for new medicines.
The scientists were able to detect how the compound interacts with cell membranes by monitoring its natural fluorescence.

The study showed that capsaicin lodges in the membranes near the surface. Add enough of it, and the capsaicin essentially causes the membranes to come apart.

The findings appeared in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.