Cancer, diabetes, stroke and transplant patients can all get benefit from one common thing; frog skin.

An international research project is collecting proteins from our amphibian friends (no frogs were harmed in the writing of this article or in the research) and adding to a growing bank of biological data needed to build up our understanding of the naturally occurring medicines in frogs.

They have already found that the peptides (mini-proteins) collected from the Waxy Monkey Frog and the Giant Firebellied Toad can be used in a controlled and targeted way to regulate 'angiogenesis', the process by which blood vessels grow in the body.  

Professor Chris Shaw from  Queen's University Belfast explained that by ‘switching off’ angiogenesis and inhibiting blood vessel growth, a protein from the Waxy Monkey Frog can stop the blood vessels from growing and make a tumor less likely to spread and may eventually kill it. This has the potential to transform cancer from a terminal illness into a manageable condition.

He has found another protein from the Giant Firebellied Toad that can ‘switch on’ angiogenesis and stimulate blood vessel growth. This process can be developed to treat diseases and conditions that require blood vessels to repair quickly, such as wound healing, organ transplants, diabetic ulcers, and damage caused by strokes or heart conditions.

Shaw’s award winning research is in collaboration with Professor Pingfan Rao, in the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Fuzhou in Fujian Province, China. They are recruiting research students to extend the scope of their project. They need to collect and test as many samples of frog skin peptides as they can. New peptides, with undiscovered therapeutic properties, remain in the wild.

Did you just learn something from this article?  The British Council has created a little quiz you can take to find out.