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What Is a Cytotoxin?

Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is a common cytotoxin, may lead to formation of peptic ulcers.
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  • Written By: Douglas Bonderud
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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A cytotoxin is any substance which has a toxic effect on cells. The term cyto is of Greek origin, and refers to 'a hollow container.' It is used as a preface when describing a biological cell. Some common examples of cytotoxins include chemical agents and certain snake venoms. Cytotoxins typically attack only a specific type of cell or organ, rather than an entire body.

Cells that have been affected by a cytotoxin can perish in several different ways. One is necrosis. In this form of cell death, the cells lose integrity in their membrane wall and collapse. Another type of possible cell death is apoptosis. This type of death is pre-programmed into the cell itself before the cytotoxin arrives. It is typically a beneficial property, as seen when cells in the fingers and toes of developing human babies undergo apoptosis, leading to the separation of digits.

When a cytotoxic apoptosis occurs, the pre-programmed death sequence of a cell is prematurely turned on. Once the sequence has begun, there is no way to reverse it. The genetic process make take minutes or days, but cell death is inevitable. Necrosis usually accompanies apoptosis in its later stages.

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Cytotoxic agents can also kill clusters of cells simply by limiting their abilities to grow, divide, and reproduce. Although cytotoxins are often regarded as harmful substances, they are also used in medicine, particularly in the treatment of cancer. If the cancer cells in a neoplasm, or tumor, are targeted with a cytotoxin, they will die at a far faster rate than healthy cells, owing to their higher reproduction rate. A cytotoxin applied in the right dosage at the right time can cure a cancer with minimal harm to the patient. This form of cancer treatment is also known as chemotherapy, and it is because of healthy cell death, due to the administered cytotoxin, that such patients suffer hair loss and reduced immune system function.

Certain diseases also produce their own cytotoxins. Diphtheria and scarlet fever both generate toxins that worsen the effects of the illness. If left untreated, the cytotoxic process can progress to a stage in which a patient may not recover, even if the original disease is cured. An example of a common cytotoxin is the helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is found in the stomach and duodenum. This bacteria breaks down urease found in the stomach, which creates ammonia. This ammonia is toxic to the stomach's epithelial cells, and can lead to stomach ulcers and cancer.

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miriam98
Post 2

@anon169953 - The problem with medical treatments like chemotherapy is that they kill good cells along with the bad. By the time the patient discovers this, the damage is done.

I personally believe that natural approaches are the best. The fact is that cancer cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. Once the cancer patient flushes toxins from their body by changing to an alkaline diet, the toxins leave, and the patient is much healthier than before.

I have one friend who has been on chemotherapy and medication, and he had all sorts of cytotoxin side effects in his body. The doctor finally let him stop the medication, and this guy is ten now times better than before.

anon169953
Post 1

What needs to be included is the fact that the National Cancer Institute indicates that 20 to 40 percent of cancer patients die, not of their cancer, but of malnutrition related causes and that fully 80 percent suffer some effects of malnutrition. After four years of oral medications, my wife agreed to a four month protocol of intravenous chemotherapy.

Three months after the last infusion, my wife of 43 years passed away. In my wife's case, I believe that the chemotherapy damaged or destroyed the bacteria of the digestive system to the point that it was not able to absorb the nutrients from her food. Unfortunately, my wife's doctor - a woman - was more interested in another cycle of a different cytotoxin protocol and did absolutely nothing to help build her up after her chemotherapy.

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