Snake venom may be 'drug source'
24 September, 2012
London:Venomous reptiles may provide a good source for new drugs for human diseases, researchers in Liverpool say.
Venom has already been used to create drugs, but the chemicals in it are often too deadly for human consumption. However, a study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has shown snakes and lizards have "reclaimed" some toxins and used them, safely, elsewhere in their own bodies. Scientists think these reclaimed toxins could make safe and effective drugs.
Researchers compared the genomes of venomous snakes and lizards to see how the animals' venoms had evolved. They said it was an "unexpectedly dynamic" process, with chemicals in venom being formed through evolution and then later being adopted by parts of the body for other uses. Dr Nicholas Casewell, from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: "Our results demonstrate that the evolution of venoms is a really complex process."
He said venom seemed to evolve a lot of new functions, possibly to overcome resistance in prey. "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," he said.