Fatty acid called dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) has been found to kill human cancer cells, according to a new study in Developmental Cell journal.
The researchers in the study said that dihomogamma-linolenic acid can induce ferroptosis in an animal model. Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent type of cell death and is closely related to many disease processes.
Co-author of the study Jennifer Watts of the Washington State University said that the research was a step towards a potential treatment for cancer.
He said that if DGLA was precisely delivered to a cancer cell, it could promote ferroptosis. This wouild lead to the death of the tumour cell, he added. Moreover, these could also be tested for other conditions such as kidney disease and neurodegeneration where this type of cell death has to be prevented.
A polyunsaturated fatty acid, DGLA is found in small amounts in the human body.
Watts has been researching dietary fats including DGLA for nearly twenty years. The researchers found that feeding nematodes a diet of DGLA laden bacteria killed all the germ cells in the worms as well as the stem cells that make the germ cells.
They also said that several of the mechanisms found in nematodes were consistent with ferroptosis in mammalian systems. They also found an interaction with ether lipid, another fatty acid class, which had a protective effect against DGLA. When they took out the ether lipids, the cells died faster in the presence of DGLA.