Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Unusual Biomedical Animals Week Scorpion Tales

Using scorpion venom to target brain tumours and to deliver drugs to tissues

25 June 2020

Scorpion Tales

From snakes and spiders to scorpions and stonefish, venomous animals are generally regarded with fear, yet their potent chemical weapons, able to target biochemical pathways effectively and specifically, provide a wealth of inspiration for biomedical research. Following an ancient history of traditional uses, venoms were first harnessed by modern medicine in captopril, a hypertension drug based on pit viper venom. Now, research on scorpions highlights the potential for uncovering new promising compounds, with a range of applications. Chlorotoxin, identified in the venom of the deathstalker scorpion (pictured), can bind cells of glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, and is being studied as a tool for imaging and targeting tumours for treatment. Other scorpion peptides, shown to accumulate in cartilage in rodents, could offer solutions for more localised delivery of steroids to the joints, to better treat rheumatoid arthritis. With renewed interest in venoms for drug development, further discoveries could follow.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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