Drugs with bite

Medicines developed from venom from reptiles and other animals

source: James Mitchell Crow
New Scientist vol 214 no 2863, May 5th 2012
starts p34, 4 pages long

Research on the potential of animal venom as a source of medicines has intensified with the development of genomics. Pit viper venom, for example, affects blood pressure, giving rise to medicines for controlling blood pressure in humans. Snakes produce more venom than most invertebrates, and their venom contains fewer peptides, so they are easier to study, though medicines have also been develped from the venom of scorpions, snails and other invertebrates. Research on cobra venom dates back to the 1930s, and cobratoxin is a compound due for clinical trials to help people with MS, by depressing overactive immune responses. Another molecule, cobrotoxin, appears to have potential in preventing the spread of HIV. Meanwhile, Gila monsters produce a venom which has potential for treating type-2 diabetes.