New York, July 23 : Royal jelly -- a natural bee product -- long known for its mysterious growth effects on future queen honey bees, while hailed by some as an anti-ageing, cholesterol-lowering super supplement, might also help fight cancer, finds new research.
Royal jelly also called "bee milk", looks like white snot.
Besides water, it also contains a combination of proteins and sugars.
The findings showed this "queen magic" affects cell signalling and growth in cancer cells.
However, how this actually happens and its potential benefit to humans, has remained a mystery to scientists.
"The exact structure of the key protein in royal jelly remains unknown.
But it is expected to act through the epidermal growth factor (or EGF) receptor -- the main pathway targeted by cancer therapeutics today," Daryl Klein, Assistant Professor at Yale University in Connecticut, US, said in a statement.
Klein's lab studies cell signalling, and how these signals can be "tuned" in different ways.
Using commercial jelly shipped from China, initial studies from Klein's lab have started to resolve the oligomer structure of MRJP-1 (major royal jelly protein).
However, the scientists found that resolution stalled around 11 Angstroms -- not enough to reveal the potential secrets hidden in the jelly.
They fear that the commercially available product may have been the limiting factor.
"We've bought commercial royal jelly, but it goes through a lot of handling -- freezing, thawing and re-freezing -- before it gets to us, which could affect the ultimate resolution we can see in this protein and how we can do functional tests on it," added Tongqing Li, post-doctoral associate at the varsity.
Researchers are now hoping to extract royal jelly from the university's campus to find out "how it modifies cell growth across different species, and how it might modify cancer cell signalling," Klein said.