What is this blog about?

There is an large number of venomous organisms distributed among all major taxonomic phyla, with potentially more species to be discovered and described. Across many animal lineages, venom has evolved convergently, by were different/ unrelated species evolve the same/ similar trait for a specific function. The evolutionary diversity of venomous organisms has allowed for large variation of venom proteins and peptides to have evolved. Thus an array of different chemical cocktails have developed throughout the animal kingdom; each having their own unique effects and individual toxic arsenal.

Symbol for the World Health Organisation - Showing a snake wrapped around a staff (image: pixgood.com)

Symbol for the World Health Organization – Showing a snake wrapped around a staff (image: pixgood.com)

As a result of their diversity, venoms have had increasing interest from pharmaceutical companies in using them as potential drugs to cure many conditions and illnesses. Venoms have long been used in some way or form in medicine throughout ancient history. The ancient Greeks aptly used the snake as a symbol for medicine, this is due to its association with Ascelpius (Greek god of medicine). It is still used as the worldwide symbol for healthcare to this day.

Many drugs have already been developed that can aid with such diseases and conditions as type II diabetes and hypertenison (high blood pressure) – see ‘current venom drugs‘ page. Current research is allowing diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and HIV to be subject to these venoms with many positive outcomes. So who knows, one day these deadly venoms could potentially save your life and maybe that scary snake, spider or scorpion could become your only savior.

A quote from Dr. Christine Beeton, a scientist exploring venoms as drugs, sums up how little this field has been researched – “There are thousands of venoms that we haven’t even looked at yet, so we have millions of molecules that are all potential drugs still to be explored”.

The administrator of this blog is a Master of Science Research (MSciRes) student, with a great interest and passion for venoms and toxins, hoping to break into research in this field. This blog came about as part of an undergraduate module at university, which allowed him to research a topic he has thoroughly immersed himself in (venoms) and bring it to a wider audience other than the scientific community. Since the majority of the public are not as interested in venoms as the administrator, the blog was adapted to the uses of venoms in human health care and pharmaceuticals; health care being something in which everyone can relate to. If more people gain a wider understanding of venoms and how potential drugs are being created from them, then hopefully this can bring about a greater understanding of this research field to the public, whilst also increasing its status among the scientific community. The blog aims to also inspire a younger scientific generation to get involved and enthusiastic about this area of research, as future applications of these venoms for drugs could be something in which can bring about a greater understanding of diseases, potentially changing and advancing human health care.

(Blog last updated 11/04/2016)

Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) (Image: KMHPhotos)

References

Calvete, J. J., Sanz, L., Angulo, Y., Lomonte, B. & Gutiérrez, J. M. (2009). Venoms, venomics, antivenomics. FEBS Letters. 583, 1736-1743.
Fry, B.G., Vidal, N., Norman, J.A., Vonk, F.J., Scheib, H., Ramjan, S.F., Kuruppu, S., Fung, K., Hedges, S.B., Richardson, M.K., Hodgson, W.C., Ignjatovic, V.,Summerhayes, E. and Kochva, E. (2006) Early evolution of the venom system in lizards and snakes. Nature 439, 584–588.
Fry, B.G., Scheib, H., van der Weerd, L., Young, B., McNaughtan, J., Ramjan, S.F., Vidal, N., Poelmann, R.E. and Norman, J.A. (2008) Evolution of an arsenal: structural and functional diversification of the venom system in the advanced snakes (Caenophidia). Mol. Cell Proteomics 7, 215–246.
Fry, B.G., Vidal, N., van der Weerd, L., Kochva, E. and Renjifo, C. (2009) Evolution and diversification of the Toxicofera reptile venom system. J. Proteomics 72, 127–136.
Kasturiratne, A., Wickremasinghe, A.R., de Silva, N., Gunawardena, N.K., Pathmeswaran, A., Premaratna, R., Savioli, L., Lalloo, D.G. and de Silva, H.J. (2008) The global burden of snakebite: a literature analysis and modelling based on regional estimates of envenoming and deaths. PLoS Med. 5, e218.
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