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Airdate: Nov 01, 2017
Scientist: Lauren Esposito

Scorpion Venom

Scorpion Venom
Exciting new medical treatments are being developed from the venom of this feisty arachnid.

Scorpion - Venom

Scorpions sting to stun or kill their prey and to ward off predators. But scientists are finding other uses for the scorpion's venom. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Esposito: So Because scorpions produce such a variety of compounds in their venom, there's a lot of potential for us to harness those compounds and use them for other things.

Lauren Esposito is the Curator of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Esposito: A number of scientists have done research on using scorpion venoms for human benefit. There's one compound in the venom of a scorpion from Israel that, for some reason it attacks brain glioma cells. And what a brain glioma is, is a type of brain cancer. It seeks out those brain cells when it enters the body, this venom does, and it attaches itself to them.
And while that doesn't kill the brain cancer, what it allows us to do is find where those cells are in the brain. And so what some really clever scientists have figured out how to do, is take those venom compounds and attach a fluorescent dye to the venom. And so now when they inject it into the body of a mouse or a rat that has brain cancer, it seeks out those brain cancer cells and dyes them with the fluorescent dye. And then doctors can go in and look at the brain and just remove the cells that have cancer and leave all the healthy brain cells intact. Which, when you're talking about doing surgery on your brain, you always want to make sure that you take the least brain out possible. So this would be a really, really important tool in combating that specific type of cancer.
So there's a lot of research into treating cancers with scorpion venom, although it's all in the very early stages. But we're pretty excited about it.

Other potential uses for scorpion venom include natural pesticides, and treatment for Alzheimer's disease and Muscular Dystrophy. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.