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Science Finds Healing in Halloween Horrors
Date:10/30/2009

Vampire bats, spiders and even a monster have sparked new treatments,,

FRIDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Monsters, bloodsuckers and spiders, oh my!

Scary as they are, some of the creepiest, deadliest creatures roaming the night this Halloween are also teaching medical science new ways to heal.

Consider the venom of the dreaded scorpion, for example.

Dr. Hector Valdivia, a physiology professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison is isolating the paralyzing poisons that scorpions use to immobilize their victims. The ability of these toxins to mysteriously penetrate cell membranes -- with lethal results for unfortunate victims -- could end up benefiting mankind, by delivering drugs to otherwise impenetrable cells.

"If I have a piece of a drug that cannot penetrate the cell, I could couple it to the toxin so the toxin serves as a vehicle to carry cargo into the cell," Valdivia explained. The concept remains in the development phase, but Valdivia's lab has already figured out how to synthesize the toxins so they don't have to keep milking the arachnids for venom.

Spider venom is also being looked at to kill off tumors, said Robert Root-Bernstein, professor of physiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing and co-author of Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels. And he noted that spider webs, when placed on actual wounds, can aid blood clotting.

Meanwhile, scientists are discovering that what's good for vampires might also be good for stroke patients. Efforts are underway to see if clot-resisting saliva from vampire bats -- which live off the blood of animals -- can help prevent brain cell death in stroke patients. Desmoteplase, a drug inspired by an enzyme in vampire bat saliva, is being tested in a global clinical trial as a blood thinner.

Even monsters have offered their services to pharmaceutical science -- well, the desert-dwell
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