Jennifer Hollands reports on the medicinal value of toxins:
Ironically, the properties that make venom deadly are also what make it so valuable for medicine. Many venom toxins target the same molecules that need to be controlled to treat diseases. Venom works fast and is highly specific. Its active components—those peptides and proteins, working as toxins and enzymes—target particular molecules, fitting into them like keys into locks. Most medicines work the same way, fitting into and controlling molecular locks to thwart ill effects. It’s a challenge to find the toxin that hits only a certain target, but already top medicines for heart disease and diabetes have been derived from venom. New treatments for autoimmune diseases, cancer, and pain could be available within a decade.
(Photo: Vipera berus male, one fang with a small venom stain in leather glove. By Piet Spaans. Via Wiki.)