It is common knowledge that the venom from a snake or scorpion can be dangerous. Less known is the fact that several drugs are derived from the toxins of venomous animals. Throughout history, humans have used toxins for medical purposes. Today, modern medicine uses the vast amount of toxins as inspiration for developing novel drugs. Despite the potential of venom-derived drugs, only seven have been approved so far.
COFFEE BREAK NEWS FOR LIFE SCIENTISTS
Commonly prescribed drugs called fluoroquinolones, the fourth-most used class of antibiotics in the US, have been shown to cause rare, disabling side effects. Patients have experienced pain in tendons, joints and muscles, neurological and psychological difficulties. Researchers now have a few theories why such symptoms may occur.
An international clinical study demonstrated astounding recovery of patients with multiple sclerosis after a stem cell transplant. Scientists claim these transplants are dramatically better than standard drugs at halting the spread of multiple sclerosis and improving its symptoms.
New research reveals genetic mysteries behind synesthesia – a condition in which different senses seem to be crossed up in the brain, causing a person to “taste” words or even “feel” numbers. The phenomenon has been intriguing neuroscientists for years and this research could unlock new doors to understanding how our brains process sensory input.
An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 viral species could jump from animals to humans. Scientists are joining the Global Virome Project initiative in hope of identifying new potential pathogens and countering them before they become the next pandemic. This move from a reactive to a proactive approach aims to provide a safer future for all.
Research at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston showed that four viruses found in fish produce proteins similar to human hormones and react with cells similarly to insulin. The discovery suggests that micro-organisms could play a role in development of diabetes, as well as other autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Epidemics have plagued human populations for thousands of years, but there are very few clues as to what pathogens may have caused massive epidemics in the past. Scientists are using new techniques to extract and analyze ancient DNA, and what they have found may give us information about how things happened nearly 500 years ago.
CRISPR/Cas systems are best known as “gene scissors” for correcting genetic defects. Precise targeting of specific regions in DNA of plants, animals, and microorganisms is the reason CRISPR recently became a favorite tool of many researchers. Now, a group from the University of Freiburg identified an enzyme which assists the CRISPR/Cas system in correctly regulating translation.
Scientists from Duke University discovered that DNA contains a “built-in timer” that clocks the frequency with which mutations occur. Their research shows that DNA bases can change shape within a thousandth of a second, allowing them to temporarily morph into alternative states.
A team of researchers decoded the entire genetic information of the salamander axolotl. It is the largest genome ever to be sequenced. The “Mexican walking fish” could provide us with the foundation for novel insights into human tissue regeneration capacities.