Researchers have been finding treatments for various conditions in what might be considered by many to be the least expected place: venoms. These toxic substances can cause reactions ranging from mildly annoying to deadly depending on the animal. But in small doses or in purified forms, these toxins are just the right medicine for some people. Here are some drugs derived from various animals:
-Captopril, used to treat hypertension, isolated from pit vipers
-Exenatide (Byetta), used to treat diabetes, isolated from gila monsters
-Xen2174, used to treat severe pain, isolated from cone snails
For more examples, see the recent article in New Scientist
After figuring out the specific active ingredient in these venoms, scientists are able to create synthetic versions that can be mass-produced to avoid the need for “farming” these creatures.
Snake venom alone may contain any one of the following types of venom or a combination of toxins:
-Cytotoxins: initiates the digestion of prey. Like the name implies, it is toxic to cells, especially muscle cells. Some may target specific cells, like cardiac muscle cells causing heart failure while others may be more general.
-Hematoxins: destroys red blood cells, vessels or causes clotting.
-Neurotoxins: targets the nervous system.
With the wide variety of potential toxins in nature, it is likely that many treatments are just waiting to be discovered in animals.