Nature’s deadliest snakes are typically associated with dread and fear as a single bite from the Inland Taipan is almost certain death! Its venom contains such high levels of neurotoxins that exposure can easily result in paralysis and blood clots, which prevent the flow of blood and will almost certainly result in a painful death. However, despite the overwhelming evidence pinned against this snake’s venom (as well as the venom of other deadly vipers and reptiles), there actually appears to be a silver lining in the midst of this deadly bite.
Here are 4 ways venom has been used for medicinal purposes throughout our history and in our modern medicine today:
Invented in the year 1977 and later approved by the American Food and Drug Administration in 1981, the drug Captopril was the first modern medicine to include an active compound ingredient derived from an animal’s toxin. Originally sourced from the Brazilian Viper (Bothrops jararaca), scientists were able to create an oral tablet (Captopril) that had the ability to regulate hypertension and prevent heart failure. This was done by introducing the toxin’s peptide (bradykinin) to the pulmonary system of the drug user, which then assists to dilate the arteries and results in lowering blood pressure.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatments
The Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) is another deadly creature who has lent their venom to aid in medical developments, this time to treat type 2 diabetes. Scientists discovered that the toxins found in this reptile are very similar to the human hormone called GLP-1, which is used in the human body to increase the release of insulin in the pancreas. Several medicines have been developed to mimic GLP-1 since the year 2005, and have lead to improvements in type 2 diabetes treatments ever since.
Heart Attack Preventative Treatments
Similarly to the drug Captopril mentioned above, scientists have also isolated venom compounds to create more heart attack preventative medicines. Two vipers (Sistrurus miliarius and Echis carinatus) and one species of leech (Hirudu medicinalis) are the creatures approved for these medicinal heart treatments. The purpose of these treatments have all been associated with stopping blood coagulation that can lead to a heart attack becoming fatal.
The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepsis) was discovered to have a pain-relieving peptide in its venom by research scientists in the year 2012. The team of researchers has discovered that the Black Mamba’s toxin works as an agent to block ion-channels that correlate with our ability to feel pain. Although this study is still in the research phase and no medicines have been approved by the FDA, it looks very promising that at some point in our future there will be a morphine alternative medicine on the market. This development could even lead to aiding in the relief of our current opioid crisis.
With the advancement of technology progressing everyday it is highly predictable that more animal toxins will be used to advance modern medicine in our future. It is very exciting to ponder what ways nature’s deadliest creatures may actually benefit the human race in years to come.
If you want to learn more about some amazing species of reptiles, Book a show with Reptile Shows of New England. Here we share our love for these reptiles and help to educate those who may be afraid of these kinds of animals. We showcase everything from snakes to tarantulas and more!