Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oh, the Irony: Toxins That Heal

When you hear the word “toxin,” you probably think of something that’s bad. Something that, depending on the type, could make someone very sick or even die. And that’s true—to an extent. Toxins found in the natural world have long informed modern medicine, helping heal humanity when harnessed correctly.

For example, did you know that snake venom extractions can be used to help thin blood? We’ve made incredible progress over the years—but there’s still much more we have to learn and tap into. Check out some toxins that we haven’t yet fully taken advantage of, but that could change the face of medicine forever.
  1. Tetrodoxotin, AKA pufferfish toxin, can be used like morphine—but with about 3,000 times more kick. Oh, and you know the potential addiction that comes from morphine use? That’s not an issue with tetrodoxotin. According to TIME, testing has already begun on chemotherapy patients with chronic pain.
  2. Shark skin may look smooth, but it’s actually covered in tiny ridges that make it inhospitable to bacteria. Researchers are currently testing its use in urinary catheters, which if successful would help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria like MRSA.
  3. King cobra venom is, like tetrodoxotin, being tested as a potential alternative to morphine. Scientists say it’s 20-200 times more effective than morphine and isn’t addictive. Manjunatha Kini, who is studying the venom at the National University of Singapore, hopes to begin testing on patients within the next year.
  4. Tick saliva could potentially be used as a blood-thinning agent. About 70 times more effective than our bodies’ natural blood thinners, the saliva could prove to be an incredibly valuable agent in preventing and clearing blood clots.
  5. Sea anemone toxin is being studied as a potential treatment for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. Researchers believe that when applied correctly, the toxin could paralyze harmful antibodies and help retrain immune cells. 

To read more about these toxins and more being put to good, check out this article on Yahoo!