A chemical compound found in red wine and painkiller aspirin can help protect against the risk of developing cancer, a new study says (Dave Dugdale/ Flickr)

A new study says that a chemical compound found in red wine and painkiller aspirin can help protect against the risk of developing cancer. 

Scientists, in the study,  found that resveratrol and the painkiller was capable of killing tetraploid cells or the abnormal cells that contain more than the two sets of chromosomes. 

A human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes or 46 chromosomes in total.  Abnormalities in the number of chromosomes have long been linked to cancer.  Previous research also has shown a sudden surge in these abnormal cells during the early stages of different types of cancer, including breast, gastric, cervical, prostate and esophageal cancers. Efforts to find out an effective way to protect against cancer by eliminating these harmful cells from the body have been on from a long time. However, till the date, scientists couldn't find out an effective method that helps destroy the cancer causing cells without damaging the healthy ones.

The findings are based on the experiments Dr Guido Kroemer of the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif in France and colleagues conducted on mice.  During the study, the research team genetically engineered mice to have bowel cancer, subsequently leading to the creation of more tetraploid cells in their intestinal linings.

Later, the animals were fed either resveratrol or aspirin. Results showed that both helped reduce the number of the abnormal cells in the mice, subsequently lowering their risk of developing cancer.

To re-confirm their findings, researchers conducted experiments on cell culture of human bowel tumour. Interestingly, both the agents were highly effective in eradicating tetraploid cells without causing any harm to the normal healthy cells. 

Resveratrol and aspirin achieve this by activating AMPK, an enzyme that plays a major role in cell homeostasis (the method with which a cell retains its internal equilibrium by managing the physiological processes). Overexpression of the enzyme easily destroys tetraploid cells that have a lower tolerance for the AMPK expression than the healthy cells.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.