Scientists seeking out beneficial animal venoms

By on November 10, 2014

Researchers have been monitoring animal venom in novel ways to find new drugs, according to a report from Chemical & Engineering News.

Peptides found in venom have led to diverse drugs with beneficial uses, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular drugs. One of a small but growing group of venom researchers, Bryan G. Fry of the University of Queensland, Australia, has made it his life’s mission to explore venoms and discover more venomous creatures who might hold the keys to new drugs for a variety of illnesses.

Although snakes are the creatures we typically think of as venomous, Fry explores a much wider array of venomous creatures, ranging from assassin flies to deep-sea Antarctic octopi. “You get your greatest return by looking at the weirdest animals,” he says, usually by finding a “biodiversity hotspot.”

Besides Fry, there are other researchers who focus on mining the venomous secrets of cone snails, tarantulas or Gila monsters. These venom researchers try to find not only new venoms but also new techniques for analysis, such as next-generation nucleic acid sequencing of venom’s peptide-encoding RNA or mass spectrometric analysis of the venom itself.

Top image: Fry extracts a venom sample from an inland Taipan snake. (Credit: Bryan Fry)

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