Snake venom could save lives
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ANI: Venomous snakes and lizards may be a 'whole
new source' for drug discovery, say researchers.
Though venom has already been used to create drugs, the chemicals in it are
often too deadly for human consumption.
But a new study found snakes and lizards have "reclaimed" some toxins and used
them, safely, elsewhere in their own bodies, and scientists think it could be
used to make safe and effective drugs.
The researchers said it was an "unexpectedly dynamic" process, with chemicals in
venom being formed through evolution and then later being adopted by parts of
the body for other uses.
"Our results demonstrate that the evolution of venoms is a really complex
process," the BBC quoted Dr Nicholas Casewell, from Liverpool School of Tropical
Medicine, as saying.
He said venom seemed to evolve a lot of new functions, possibly to overcome
resistance in prey.
"The venom gland of snakes appears to be a melting pot for evolving new
functions for molecules, some of which are retained in venom for killing prey,
while others go on to serve new functions in other tissues in the body," he
Dr Wolfgang Wuster, from Bangor University, added: "Many snake venom toxins
target the same physiological pathways that doctors would like to target to
treat a variety of medical conditions."
The cardiovascular system, heart and blood vessels, is one of the main targets
of snake venom when attacking prey and it has played a role in the origins of
some blood pressure drugs such as ACE inhibitors.
The nervous system is another similar area.
But the challenge for the scientist to use it as drugs has been to overcome the
toxic effect of the toxins.
"This means that drug developers have had to modify toxins to retain their
potency and make them safe for drug use," said Dr Casewell.
Now, the scientists involved in the study believe nature may have already done
the hard work, with reptiles making the toxins safe for their own use.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.