They are certainly the stuff of nightmares and in person they can make your skin crawl. Chief of the creepy crawlies, snakes, in all their shapes and sizes, may indeed look nice at times, in their variegated colors, but they can indeed make the skin crawl and are very certainly deadly. Many species of snakes possess deadly venom that can kill in seconds, but while these creatures may be phobia inducing, a new research suggests that the very poison in snakes can actually be beneficial, with the potential to cure diseases.
The research conducted by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine states that the venom of both snakes and reptiles could be used to create drugs that are able to treat diseases. The research, published in the journal, Nature Communications, states that even though snake venom is used nowadays in certain drugs, their concentrations are too deadly for human consumption; however, using a new process, the researchers were able to “reclaim” the toxins and use them safely in drugs.
The key to the use of the venom was the natural process within reptiles by which it evolves. The researchers said that the process was "unexpectedly dynamic" in that the chemicals in the venom developed in such a way that certain parts of it became adapted for use on prey, while others developed for use on other tissues in the body.
Dr. Nicholas Casewell of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine explains, "Our results demonstrate that the evolution of venoms is a really complex process. 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."
Because of this dual function of venom to be used both harmfully and beneficially, the researchers suggest that the beneficial aspects of venom can be applied to creation of drugs. As the reptiles themselves use this venom for their own body, it can similarly be used in the human body as seen from the creation of such blood pressure drugs as ACE inhibitors. Because venom usually attacks the cardiovascular and nervous system, venom could be used for drugs in these areas.
Dr. Wolfgang Wuster of Bangor University comments, "Many snake venom toxins target the same physiological pathways that doctors would like to target to treat a variety of medical conditions."