Snake venom 'could help create more effective drugs'

20 September 2012

The venom found in snakes and a variety of lizards could prove a good source for new drugs to treat a selection of human diseases.

Research, results of which were published in the journal Nature Communications, pointed out that many reptiles 'reclaim' some toxins and use them safely elsewhere in their own bodies.

The scientists behind the study, from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, believe it is these reclaimed toxins which could make for safer and more effective drugs to be created in the future.

In order to reach this conclusion, the researchers studied the genomes of venomous snakes and lizards to determine how the animals' venoms evolve.

Upon this analysis, it was found that chemicals in the venom form through evolution and then are later adopted by parts of the animal's body for other uses.

Dr Nicholas Casewell, from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, noted: "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."

Posted by Philip Briggs

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