Venoms to the rescue

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According to (This article and its images were originally posted on Science current issue August 30, 2018 at 02:10PM.)

(Cover Image)

Over 200,000 animal species, such as this prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), produce venom.PHOTO: JOE MCDONALD/GETTY IMAGES

Venomous animals have been admired and feared since prehistoric times, and their venoms have been used to both benefit and impair human health. In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great encountered lethal arrowheads in India that, based on the symptoms of dying soldiers, were most likely laced with venom from the deadly Russell’s viper. By contrast, snake venom has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since the 7th century BCE to prolong life and treat arthritis and gastrointestinal ailments, while tarantulas are used in the traditional medicine of indigenous populations of Mexico and Central and South America. The modern era of venom research has so far yielded six venom-derived drugs (1). Recent work has elucidated the evolutionary biology of venoms and provided an impressive diversity of new therapeutic drug candidates.

Venomous organisms are ubiquitous. All known animal phyla contain venomous species. There are more than 220,000 known venomous animal species, or ∼15% of all described animal biodiversity on Earth. Venomous animals inhabit virtually all marine and terrestrial habitats, ranging from desert snakes and scorpions to Antarctic sea anemones and jellyfish. However, most of their venoms have not been studied. For example, invertebrates make up more than 90% of all extant species, yet we know very little about their venoms (2). In large part, this neglect has been due to the lack of appropriate technologies for studying the tiny amounts of venom that can be extracted from small animals. However, the recent revolution in omics technologies (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) has enabled the study of venoms from animals that are small, rare, or hard to maintain in the lab (3).


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This article and its images were originally posted on [Science current issue] August 30, 2018 at 02:10PM. All credit to both the author and Science current issue | ESIST.T>G>S Recommended Articles Of The Day.


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