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Scorpion Medicine

February 5, 2015

Toxins from scorpions could lead to new drugs for neuromuscular disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Life-saving scorpions. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sodium ions are important to nerve function, and some toxins from venomous creatures bind to nerve cells, change how they interact with sodium, and either block nerves or overexcite them. In the wild, this can mean death or paralysis. But in the lab, these toxins are invaluable to learning about nerve function and producing life saving drugs. In the Journal of General Physiology, Johns Hopkins researcher Frank Bosmans and his colleagues describe using scorpion toxin and a new sensor chip to identify promising drug candidates.

FRANK BOSMANS (Johns Hopkins University):

So you can actually test thousands of compounds in a day, and if there’s one compound there that can displace the scorpion toxin, we could theoretically find a new drug.

HIRSHON:

Revealing which compounds target the same nerve site as the scorpion toxin could lead to new therapies for heart disease and neuromuscular disorders. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.