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Natural medicines: animal poisons heal diseases

Natural medicines: animal poisons heal diseases

Researchers use natural toxins as medicines

09.09.2011, 17:02

In the right dosage, the toxins of snakes, jellyfish, spiders, scorpions, lizards and other animals can be effective agents against various diseases such as cardiovascular complaints, chronic pain, heart attacks, high blood pressure or strokes.

With reference to a list of the highly toxic natural medicines in the current issue of the magazine "Chemical & Engineering News", "Welt" gives numerous examples of animal poisons that can be used in medicine to treat diseases. According to this, for example, the saliva of the Gila lizard found in the southwestern USA contains the protein exendin, which causes severe pain after the bite, but can regulate the insulin balance of diabetics in low doses. Pharmaceutical researchers take advantage of the natural properties of animal toxins in order to use them specifically to combat diseases.

Animal poisons help with numerous diseases The drugs derived from animal poisons are often extremely effective and, with the correct therapeutic dosage in the micro or nanogram range, are usually relatively low in side effects, report the specialist journal "Chemical & Engineering News". The pharmaceutical researchers use special properties of the toxins. For example, a natural poison that paralyzes the heart muscle can also be used to treat rapid heartbeat. Toxins that inhibit blood clotting and, after a bite, lead to the victim bleeding to death, can be used to prevent blood clots and thus prevent strokes and heart attacks. The animals need the highly toxic substances for defense or for hunting, but in humans they can help in the right dosage to combat various diseases. For years, chemists, doctors and pharmacologists have therefore been researching nature into new active substances that can be used in the treatment of patients.

All animal toxins are based on so-called peptides, which are composed of strung amino acids. However, these amino acids, which are also used as building blocks of human proteins, are broken down by the organism relatively quickly, so that the corresponding medication can only have an extremely limited effect. Scientists worldwide are therefore working intensively on options that slow down the breakdown of peptides in the body. Among other things, they rely on supplementing the peptides with attached side chains. These are intended to act as a kind of barrier for the attacking digestive enzymes to slow down the breakdown of the peptides and to give the medicinal products the opportunity to develop their full effect. The pharmaceutical researchers use the natural toxins as a basis and then optimize them in terms of effectiveness and side effects, reports “Welt”.

Animal toxins extremely precise and selective As an example of such natural active ingredients, the news portal gives the strong poison of certain cone snails, which blocks the nerve conduction and is said to help in the treatment of chronic pain. In addition, according to "Welt Online", the toxins of the sand-rattle, lance-otter and dwarf rattlesnake can cause severe uncontrollable bleeding, but at the same time protect against heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes. According to the experts, most of the animal toxins fulfill an extremely important prerequisite for the development of efficient medicines. They work extremely precisely and selectively so that undesirable side effects and damage to healthy tissue can be avoided. Another example of the medical benefits of animal toxins is the poison dart frogs. This potentially fatal toxin usually causes severe cramps and paralysis, but when dosed correctly it has a significantly more pain-relieving effect than, for example, morphine. In view of the current research reports, it almost seems as if nature had the right active ingredient for every condition, and science has so far not discovered all of them. (fp)

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