They appear small, innocent and meek. But the sting of a bee sends a painful surge in human bodies. However, the pain from scorpions, snakes, and wasps is indescribable.  

The pain is caused by what is called neurotoxins. These peptides or proteins cause a chain of reaction in cells that induces pain, paralysis or even death. Many of these peptides bind to other essential parts of cells causing cell membranes to collapse. Other times, neurotoxins attach to other proteins in cells blocking life essential ion channels for brain functions.  

However deadly and poisonous, experts find many neurotoxins to actually save lives. Medical and biotechnology research produce new medicines that counterattack disease cells and relieve illnesses. Although medical research has come a long way, there are many trials to develop a new drug. Much of the research takes years to develop a life-saving drug. 

In many research studies, the neurotoxins show reverse actions. These toxic proteins induce certain conditions to heal particular human diseases. Much of the research consists of developing new drugs and treatment to prevent cancer, hypertension, and other illnesses. Many of these neurotoxins have recently emerged into the medicine world with hopes to create future versions of other derivatives. 

Who would know that these tiny, unnoticeable creatures can potentially save the lives of so many people? Thanks to modern biotechnology, which uses high-tech equipment to extract these venoms, medical research is able to study these neurotoxins in a safe environment. 

The following list includes 7 amazing neurotoxins known to cause pain and death; however, scientists have turned many of these neurotoxins into medical alternatives.

1. Melittin

The painful bee sting is powerful. It causes swelling and, in some cases, it causes allergic reactions. However painful, the venom from this tiny creature has recently produced hopeful drugs. Recent studies have extracted the bee venom to develop cancer treatment drugs. Melittin[1] is believed to be part of a potential component in HIV, cancer, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis drug studies. Research report cases of melittin reacting to HIV cells but not to humans cells. While this is promising to cancer patients, more studies need to be done. Much of the research indicates cases of melittin-induced nanoparticles that can attach to HIV cells only.

2. Polybia MP-1

The Brazilian wasp named Polybia paulista[5] uses its stinging venom to defend itself from potential predators. However, new studies of this wasp’s venom created new biotechnological medicines to help patients with cancer. The relative new cancer drug called Polybia MP-1 has recently debuted in the pharmaceutical market. It is useful in the treatment of cancer cells[7]. Recently, scientists discovered the Polybia-MP1 peptide to destroy only specific fatty acids in cancer cell membranes only. It does not attack healthy cells. This is good news since it is useful in cancer studies of bladder and prostrate cancer cells as well as leukemia cells.

3. Exenatide 

Gila monsters possess a poisonous compound in their saliva. It is fatal to its prey and other animals that come in contact. It is mostly found in the southwestern part of the United States. No matter how toxic, this lizard can actually help humans with diabetes. Scientists manufacture a synthetic substance from the saliva of Gila monsters[1]. The pharmaceutical name is Byetta, which helps lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin production in the body. It is used to treat Type 2 Diabetes to resemble the human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Small and innocent-like, the venom from this lizard can help those that suffer from diabetes. 

4. Captopril

Found in the tropical jungles of South America in parts of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, this enormous fatal Brazilian pit viper is also known as the Bothrops jararaca snake[2]. Lurking mostly in the lower grasslands of the rainforest, it stalks its prey using its thermal detecting sensors. Its deadly venom is injected in the prey while holding the victim in the snake’s mouth. No matter how deadly, the jararaca snake’s venom has become a precursor for blood pressure medication. Captopril is the well known medication from the B. jararaca. It is an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which lowers blood pressure by reducing dilation. It is especially useful in hypertension patients. Perhaps, this viper is deadly when in contact, but its venom is useful for those with high blood pressure. 

5. Dalazatide (Shk-186)

The sea also has fatal creatures with incredible venoms. The anemone sea creature[3] actually traps its prey by sweeping it with its tentacles. This flower appearing sea animal patiently waits for its next victim while connected to rocks or coral reefs. Within its stinging power, the sea anemone actually helps those with immune deficiencies. Many treatment drugs are developed from this innocent looking sea creature. It is useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus. Studies have found to inhibit ion channels functionality in T lymphocytes cells only. Although more studies need to be done to fully understand its role in immune deficiencies, this small sea creature gives hope to patients that live with immune disorders.  

6. Eptifibatide or Integrilin

Found mostly on the southern parts of the United States, the pygmy rattlesnake makes more than noise when it captures its prey. While it can easily blend with the grassy areas in its surroundings, its sound is more of a buzzing noise. As with any deadly snake, its venom is extremely poisonous and dangerous. However deadly this rattlesnake is, its venom can actually treat patients with heart conditions[4]. The extract is useful to treat patients prone to sudden heart attacks. It reduces the accumulation of platelets or blood clots to prevent heart attacks. 

7. Chlorotoxin

It may look small and insignificant, but this scorpion does not get its name death stalker[6] for no reason. Often found in the desert environment, it can sting its prey by using its pincers. Full of a powerful venom, the pincers release a neurotoxin inhibiting the flow of the pathway of chloride channels. The scorpion then grasps its victim to induce a chain of reactions such as paralysis, pain, and eventually death. Scientists developed a derivative from the death stalker scorpion that adheres to tumor cells. When it connects to cancer cells, it creates a luminescence barrier between healthy and cancer cells. By using the glowing areas in cancer cells, it is helpful in surgery to identify the tumor. 

Whether we see small and undistinguished insects, snakes, or lizards, it is important to recognize that much of the venom is a defense mechanism for these organisms. However, future research promises hope for patients suffering from human illnesses that otherwise would have been impossible. It is in these small organisms that many people can have hope for a cure. These unnoticeable creatures in nature with powerful poisons can save someone’s life. 

Medicine molecule
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