Snake Toxins Could Potentially Open Doors for New Diabetes Medications

With a new discovery, medical researchers may be able to use the toxins from lethal snake venom in order to unlock pathways to brand new medications for several severe medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, and hypertension (high blood pressure). This amazing revelation has been met with much enthusiasm as the occurrence of these medical conditions is only supposed to increase over the next couple decades.

The venom that is extracted from snakes often contains a whole group of molecules known as toxins. While these toxins are fatal in this form, medical researchers have found that they had not always been deadly. They actually start out as a harmless compound that performs a number of other tasks in the snake’s body.  When the snake bites into its prey, the toxins seek out some of the prey’s normal biological processes, such as blood clotting and nerve cell signaling, and they prohibit them from functioning. Previous diabetes clinical studies have shown medical researchers that these toxins could be utilized for processes such as platelet activation and other disease related issues.

Medical research conducted by a group of scientists from the United Kingdom led to this amazing new revelation. They discovered that the toxins obtained from venomous snakes and lizards could change back into harmless molecules, which suggests that they could be manipulated in order to develop new forms of medication.

One of the researchers and lead author of the study was Dr. Nicholas Casewell from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. According to Dr. Casewell, the results of this clinical study prove that the evolutionary process for venoms is very complex. Incredibly, the snake’s venom gland actually appears to be a literal melting pot where molecules develop entirely new functions. Some of these functions are retained by the venom for bringing down prey, and then others are used to serve new functions in various tissues around the snake’s body.

This is not the first time that researchers conducting a diabetes clinical trial have been interested in toxins and their specific processes. In fact, scientists have been interested in developing new drugs from these toxins for a long time. Unfortunately, the inherent lethalness of these toxins has always posed a bit of a problem. This has forced drug developers to alter the toxins in order to retain their effectiveness while also making them safe for patients to use. However, all of this will now change due to the discovery that nontoxic versions of these toxins may exist within a snake’s body. This could mean a whole new generation of treatments for diabetes patients, cancer patients, and others.

People who have spent a lot of time researching snakes already know that the toxins in venom could start as harmless molecules which had performed a number of other functions within the body. Though up until recently, the belief was that this was only a one-way process.

Medical researchers from Bangor University and the Australian National University worked with Dr. Casewell in order to examine gene sequences obtained from the Garter snake and the Burmese python during this clinical study. (Their findings have been published in Nature Communications) They then formulated an evolutionary tree which portrayed the relationships between several of these gene sequences by comparing them with a variety of venom glands.

While we still may be a ways of from fully developing new medications for diabetes and cancer with these toxins, this medical research has opened a number of new doors for medical researchers. Again, this discovery really could not have come at a better time. Recent estimates show that the numbers of diabetes cases are predicted to rise for the next 20 years, and the incidence of cancer is not much better. Certain factors such as high obesity rate and relatively poor lifestyle choices have led to a larger number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and luckily those are things that people have the ability to change. However, for the instances where people don’t have something they can change, it is nice to know that better methods of treatment are being discovered.



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