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A deadly scorpion provides a safe pesticide
Date:1/11/2010

itz says that some neurotoxins in the scorpion are highly active against some insects ― leaf-eating moths, locusts, flies and beetles ― but have no effect on beneficial insects like honeybees or on mammals like humans. He continues to pursue an effective mode of delivery for what could be a new insecticide.

Prof. Gurevitz is considered one of the world's pioneers in this field, having published numerous papers on this subject. He spent six years as a research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and Michigan State University, beginning his scorpion studies while an M.Sc. student in Jerusalem 35 years ago. Since then, he's developed methods of toxin gene cloning, production and modification in his lab, paving the way for an entirely new molecular field based on the venom of the deadly insect.

A "Trojan crop" to hide a deadly poison

Since scorpion toxins must be modified to be able to penetrate the blood stream of an infesting insect, it is important to study the toxins and the way they interact with the insect nervous system. Only then would it be possible to modify them in such a way as to reach their target tissues in insects, he says. This is the direction he is working on now.

The agriculture industry already uses mostly pyrethroids, which also penetrate into insects and attack their nervous systems, leading to paralysis and death. Their main drawback, however, is the lack of specificity and the danger these compounds pose to the environment, livestock and humans.

"Why not harness potent natural compounds that venomous animals developed during millions of years of evolution?" asks Prof. Gurevitz. "I am developing the science so we can learn how to use them, and to learn how to produce agents to mimic their effect yet maintain specificity to certain kinds of insects."


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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