While the use of scorpion venom to treat some body disorders seems counter-intuitive, the Chinese have recognized its effectiveness hundreds of years ago. "The Chinese, major practitioners of what we call 'alternative medicine,' use scorpion venom, believing it to have powerful analgesic properties," Prof. Gurevitz says. Some studies have also shown that scorpion venom can be used to treat epilepsy. "We study how these toxins pursue their effects in the Western sense to see how it could be applied as a potent painkiller."
Using an approach called "rational design" or "biomimicry," Prof. Gurevitz is trying to develop painkillers that mimic the venom's bioactive components. The idea is to use nature as the model, and to modify elements of the venom so that a future painkiller designed according to these toxins could be as effective as possible, while eliminating or reducing side effects.
No more morphine addicts
Finding a new and effective pain medication could solve one of the biggest problems in the medical world today. Pain is an important physiological response to danger, physical injury and poor health, yet doctors need to reduce extreme pain in patients which aspirin could never palliate. To date, opiate-derived painkillers have been quite effective, but the medical community is eager to find other solutions due to the risks associated with their use.
"This new class of drugs could be useful against serious burns and cuts, as well as in the military and in the aftermath of earthquakes and natural disasters. Instead of running the risk of addiction, this venom-derived drug, mimicking the small peptide toxin, would do what it needs to do and then pass from the body with no traces or side-effects," Prof. Gur
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University