Nav: Home

Researchers are turning to deadly venoms in their quests for life-saving therapies

August 30, 2018

NEW YORK, August 30, 2018 - Venomous reptiles, bugs and marine life have notorious reputations as dangerous, sometimes life-threatening creatures. But in a paper in the current issue of Science, first author Mandë Holford, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (GC/CUNY) and Hunter College, details how technology and a growing understanding of the evolution of venoms are pointing the way toward entirely new classes of drugs capable of treating diabetes, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and other conditions.

According to Holford and her colleagues, venomous species account for more than 15 percent of the Earth's documented biodiversity, and they can be found in virtually all marine and terrestrial habitats. Still, researchers have studied very few venoms because until recently they lacked the appropriate technology for analyzing the tiny amounts of venom that can be extracted from these mostly small species. But innovations in omics (technologies that map the roles, relationships, and actions of an organism's molecular structure) are allowing researchers to uncover evolutionary changes and diversification among specific venomous species that could prove useful in developing new drugs capable of precisely targeting and binding to molecules that are active in certain human diseases.

"Knowing more about the evolutionary history of venomous species can help us make more targeted decisions about the potential use of venom compounds in treating illnesses," said Holford. "New environments, the development of venom resistance in its prey, and other factors can cause a species to evolve in order to survive. These changes can produce novel compounds -- some of which may prove extremely useful in drug development."

To date, only six Food and Drug Administration-approved, venom-derived drugs have been developed as a result of modern-day research, but Holford and her colleagues believe greater investment in venom research could yield therapies for currently untreatable diseases as well as improved therapeutic options.

Potential drug advances include therapeutic peptides derived from the venomous sea anemone, which researchers believe could treat autoimmune diseases; therapeutic neurotoxins derived from the Conus magus, which scientists think could provide non-addictive treatment of chronic pain; chlorotoxin from the deathstalker scorpion, which could be the basis for a surgical tumor-imaging technique; and spider toxins, which could yield ecofriendly insecticides.

Holford and her follow authors conclude that an evolution-informed perspective will help focus venom research so that it can leverage the extraordinary biochemical warfare created by nature to yield transformative therapeutics and bio-insecticides.
-end-
About The Graduate Center of The City University of New York

The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master's programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY -- the nation's largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, and initiatives, including its Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center's extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

Related Chronic Pain Articles:

Breastfeeding may protect against chronic pain after Caesarean section
Breastfeeding after a Caesarean section (C-section) may help manage pain, with mothers who breastfed their babies for at least two months after the operation three times less likely to experience persistent pain compared to those who breastfed for less than two months, according to new research being presented at this year's Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva (June 3-5).
Unexpected mechanism behind chronic nerve pain
It has long been assumed that chronic nerve pain is caused by hypersensitivity in the neurons that transmit pain.
Chronic pain amplifies the brain's reaction to new injuries
Chronic pain in any one body part may distort the intensity with which a key brain region perceives pain everywhere else.
How doubts about getting better influence chronic pain treatment success
A leading psychology professor at The University of Texas at Arlington has focused international attention on how a chronic pain patient's irrational doubts about never getting better can influence both his reactions to pain and even treatment outcomes.
New study finds reading can help with chronic pain
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, The Reader and the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, and funded by the British Academy, has found that shared reading (SR) can be a useful therapy for chronic pain sufferers.
Can staying active help to prevent chronic pain? Physical activity affects pain modulation in older adults
Older adults with higher levels of physical activity have pain modulation patterns that might help lower their risk of developing chronic pain, reports a study in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP).
Poor and less educated suffer the most from chronic pain
Poorer and less-educated older Americans are more like to suffer from chronic pain than those with greater wealth and more education, but the disparity between the two groups is much greater than previously thought, climbing as high as 370 percent in some categories, according to new research by a University at Buffalo medical sociologist.
New study to investigate role of sleep in chronic pain
Washington State University will lead a study to understand the relationship between sleep and chronic pain, part of a nationwide effort to address the rising abuse of opioid pain relievers and expand the arsenal of non-drug treatment options.
UK study to help chronic pain sufferers back to work
Researchers from the University of Warwick's Medical School are leading a novel study to explore ways of helping people with chronic pain back to work.
Chronic pain linked to partners of people with depression
Partners of people with depression are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, research from the University of Edinburgh has found.

Related Chronic Pain Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".