Sep 24, 2012 1:11 PM GMT
Snakes are able to convert their venom back into harmless molecules according to new research published Wednesday that scientists said could have important implications for diseases like cancer.
The joint British-Australian study of venom and tissue gene sequences in snakes showed that venom not only evolved from regular cells but could be turned back into harmless proteins.
Gavin Huttley, from the Australian team, said it was the first time snakes' venom had been shown to evolve back into regular tissues and was a significant finding for the development of drugs for conditions like cancer or diabetes.
Snake venom typically targets the same physiological pathways as many human diseases and Huttley said understanding how the venom molecule changed form could help scientists develop new drug cures.
Some snake venoms, for example, cause the cells that line blood vessels to separate and die, including the kinds that feed cancerous tumours, and Huttley said mapping how that worked could lead to more effective cancer treatments.