14:01 24 September 2012
Researchers in Liverpool are now studying snake venom, and are considering venom as a possible source for new drugs that may cure human diseases.
Although venom has been used to create drugs before, the chemicals in it are usually too deadly to be consumed by humans.
However, a study published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ has revealed that snakes and lizards ‘reclaim’ some of the toxins in their venom for use by other parts of their bodies.
It is thought that this led scientists to become interested in these reclaimed toxins as safer versions of snake venom, which may be used safely and effectively in drugs fit for humans.
Researchers are now comparing the genomes of snake and lizard venom to learn more about their evolution which, according to the BBC, Dr Nicholas Casewell, from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has described as “really complex”.
Dr Wolfgang Wuster of Bangos University has explained why they are particularly interested in using snake venom to make new drugs, and is quoted by the BBC saying: “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, which comprises the heart and blood vessels, is what snake venom targets when attacking its prey. This has played a role in the development of drugs that regulate blood pressure including ACE inhibitors.
According to some reports the challenge left is how to overcome the effect of the toxins and this new discovery may play a significant role in this.
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