Researchers from the University of Southampton are part of an international team that has helped to create a molecule that can cause cancer cells to self-destruct by carrying sodium and chloride ions into the cells.

Synthetic ion transporters have been created before, but this is the first time researchers have demonstrated how an influx of salt into a cell triggers cell death.

These synthetic ion transporters, described in the journal Nature Chemistry, could point the way to new anticancer drugs while also benefitting patients with cystic fibrosis. Study co-author Professor Philip Gale, of the University of Southampton, says: “This work shows how chloride transporters can work with sodium channels in cell membranes to cause an influx of salt into a cell. We found we can trigger cell death with salt.”

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