LACE MONITOR VENOM A LIFE-SAVER?

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LACE MONITOR VENOM A LIFE-SAVER?

Post  Admin on Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:42 am

By William Harris, HowStuffWorks.com

lace monitor venom a life saver
videoWatch Donald Schultz Harness Lace Monitor Venom

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The Science of Venom: Venom Kills, But Can It Cure?

DINOSAUR TO DRUG: Scientists Search for Medicines in Lace Monitor Venom

It's hard to believe that a creature as dinosaur-like as a monitor lizard could save thousands of lives each year, but this is exactly what biologist Bryan Fry hopes to prove. In 2006, Fry and a team of scientists reported a shocking discovery: Monitor lizards, long thought to be non-venomous, possess both venom glands and venom. Now he's trying to determine if that venom can be transformed into life-saving medicines.

It may seem like a strange place to look for a drug until you realize scientists all over the world are trying to tease novel compounds from the venom of a menagerie of animals, from jellyfish and anemones, to snails and spiders, to snakes and lizards. "But that's the inherent beauty of venom research," Fry recently said on 60 Minutes Australia. "You can't predict where the next wonder drug is going to come from, so you need to conserve all of these amazing animals simply because of that."

Spit Happens

Of course, conservation is not the only desire fueling venom research. A blockbuster drug can mean significant revenue for the company that develops it. Take Byetta (exenatide), which was developed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company and had net sales of nearly $679 million in 2008. Exenatide, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2005 to treat type 2 diabetes, is a synthetic form of exendin-4, a hormone occurring naturally in the saliva of the Gila monster, a large venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Fry believes monitor lizards — including the lace monitor, Varanus varius — could hold another pharmaceutical gold mine. After analyzing varanid venom, Fry and his team found that it was rich in natriuretic toxins, phospholipase A2 (PLA2), cysteine-rich secretory protein (CRISP) and kallikrein. Other research has already shown how these compounds affect the physiology of living things. For example, natriuretic toxins and kallikrein cause blood pressure to plummet. PLA2 interferes with blood coagulation, which results in prolonged bleeding. And CRISP toxins inhibit the contraction of smooth muscles.

In the wild, it's not hard to imagine how this cocktail of poisons could be put to good use. Lace monitors often feed on small birds and mammals. As they bite down and chew, they release large quantities of venom from glands in their lower jaw. The toxins in the venom can help to subdue prey animals by causing a rapid loss of consciousness and muscle function. Some reptile experts also believe that the enzymes in lace monitor venom help the lizard — a glutton with a prodigious appetite — digest large amounts of meat.

Monster Medicine

In the pharmaceutical lab, scientists are trying to isolate varanid venom proteins and use them in beneficial ways. One approach is to use the proteins in their natural form. For example, the blood-thinning properties of PLA2 make it a natural candidate to prevent blood clots from forming in arteries and veins, a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Another approach is to tweak the proteins to make novel compounds with medicinal value. Fry and a team of researchers are currently doing this with proteins extracted from the venom of Gila monsters and beaded lizards. Their work has already led to promising new chemicals that influence heart tissue.

"It may seem paradoxical to most people that we're trying to flip things around," Fry said on 60 Minutes. "Take something that kills and make it something that heals." But that's exactly what he's doing — and with venom from an animal that just may be a living dinosaur.
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Re: LACE MONITOR VENOM A LIFE-SAVER?

Post  Stephan9268 on Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:47 am

thats a very cool and interesstign article ty for posting
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Re: LACE MONITOR VENOM A LIFE-SAVER?

Post  The Herp Father on Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:59 pm

Be interesting to see what other species are proven out to be venomous, as we hav discussed before salivary glands are seemingly easily modified into venom glands, I really wish it would be more publicly disseminated that Duvermoys gland is a misnomer but the public may not be ready for such a thing too.
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