Druids offer up cancer cure as mistletoe bestows kiss of life
Sunday 24 December 1995
Scientists at London's Birkbeck College and Moscow's Institute of Genetics of Micro- Organisms have discovered that the festive plant contains a chemical similar to Ricin, which is already used in chemotherapy.
The researchers are now working with a German company, Medaus of Cologne, to turn the office party aphrodisiac into an anti-cancer drug. It has a particularly large molecule that would help it stick effectively to malignant cells while the poison kills them off. The scientists hope to tether it to antibodies that would seek out and attack cancerous cells.
"It is particularly promising," says Dr Rex Palmer, reader in Crystallography at Birkbeck College, who has been working out how the chemical works.
"We may now be able to employ genetic engineering to make it work more effectively in treating cancer and leukaemia and countering rejection after transplant surgery."
But today's scientists may be some 2,000 years behind the Druids. The Roman historian Pliny, writing in the first century AD, noted how the Druids "call the mistletoe by a name meaning, in their language, the all- healing". He listed 11 conditions which mistletoe could treat, ranging from malformed males to epilepsy. Most intriguingly, he noted that it could be used to "disperse tumours".
Lindow Man, a 2,300-year-old human sacrifice found in a peat bog in Cheshire in 1984, had three grains of mistletoe pollen still in his stomach. It is thought that he may have been treating himself for cancer.
Pliny recorded that the Druids "hold nothing more sacred" than the mistletoe and described how priests clad in white would climb trees to cut it down with golden sickles. The cut twigs would be caught in white cloths so that they would not lose their healing powers by touching the ground.
"The Druids appear to have been right," says Dr Palmer. "They must have been on to something. After all, they built Stonehenge."
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
Ayesha Ali death: Mother and her girlfriend found guilty of manslaughter of eight-year-old
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, claims photographer
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...