Importance of Venom Essay- 1200 Words - Essay Prowess

Importance of Venom Essay- 1200 Words


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Importance of Venom


There are numerous venomous animals and toxic plants in the world. These are basically survival mechanisms in an effort to ensure that species continue to survive and reproduce thus enhancing continuity. This paper seeks to discuss one venomous animal and one toxic plant how they work and how these can be engineered in the lab. Venoms and plant toxins are also used to make antidotes to treat animals and human beings in cases where they become infected with these poisonous and often fatal toxins and venoms. This paper will also discuss a pharmaceutical company which produces medicines containing animal venoms for the treatment of different human diseases. Lastly, this paper will investigate the career of Zoltan Takacs, a famous toxicologist.

Death stalker scorpion

This is regarded as one of the most poisonous scorpions in the entire world. It possesses a sting on its tail which harbors very potent venom. The sting is not only extremely agonizing but is also known to cause paralysis in human beings (Meredith and Marcella). The death stalker scorpion uses its venom for hunting other creatures, mainly insects it preys upon for food.

How the death stalker venom works in the human body

Ions play an important role in enabling and controlling the action of muscle cells which make up muscle tissue (Meredith and Marcella). These ions are sourced from two highly reactive elements, sodium and chlorine. Chloride ions enable muscles to relax while sodium ions enable them to contract. These contractions and relaxations enable body movement.

Death stalker venom action

Once is particular species of scorpion injects venom into a human being’s body, the first sensation is immense pain and agony. The most potent chemical in the venom is a protein based toxin referred to as chlorotoxin which is a relatively short molecule made up of 36 amino acids (Meredith and Marcella). This protein molecule has a very overpowering effect on the muscles in the human body. It is able to cause paralysis in a human being’s body by blocking chloride channels thus deactivating the muscles ability to relax. At this point, paralysis sets in.

Benefits of the death stalker scorpion’s venom to the field of medicine

In a natural setting, venom is a potent means towards self defense and for hunting for food. However, modern medicine has identified chlorotoxin as a possible treatment for brain cancer in human beings. Cancer at present has no cure and as such has devastated human populations for a long time (Meredith and Marcella). The active protein in this venom has been bio-engineered to block the chloride intake channels in malignant cells thus curtailing further growth.

Other useful medical uses for this particular toxin include inducing paralysis effects which have been proven as beneficial during certain medical procedures. For instance, during surgery, it is necessary to have patients stay perfectly still (Meredith and Marcella). This venom is thus administered in addition to sleep inducing medications during very risky surgical procedures. An institution which employs Scorpion chlorotoxin towards making medicine for use in humans is Blaze Bioscience (Koerner).

Oleander Leaf

This is an evergreen small tree which is highly poisonous. It is easily identifiable by its pink, white, purple and red flowers as well as its long, thin and leather like leaves (American Cancer Society). It is usually found in mild climate and is in some localities considered as a decorative indoor plant. The entire plant is highly toxic though its main active ingredient is normally extracted from leaves. The available literature material indicates that this plant is responsible for many human deaths. It also kills animals if ingested.

How the Oleander toxin works in the human body

The active ingredients in Oleander are cardiac glycosides known as Neriine and Oleandrin (American Cancer Society). The main action in the human with which these toxins affect the body is through compromising the sodium and chloride ion concentration gradient within the nerve cell, more specifically, the neuron. They inhibit the action of nerve cells situated in the heart muscle (American Cancer Society). By altering the ion concentration gradient, the heart is prevented from beating leading to cardiac arrest.

Upon ingesting these toxins, the victim exhibits such symptoms as an irregular heart beat and vomiting (McGrath). The victim also suffers diarrhea and excessive sweating. These are the body’s mechanism against the fatal properties of the toxin. The toxin is basically an alcohol based compound composed of a carbonyl group as well as 2 ester group (American Cancer Society).

Oleander toxin action

These glycosides contained in Oleander when ingested result in potentially fatal cardiac effects resulting from cardio toxicity as well as an indirect effect through the body’s vagal nerve. Cardiac effects arise as a result of inhibition on the sodium potassium ATP-ase pump. This increases the heart rate dramatically (American Cancer Society). The indirect effect results in a decrease in the depolarization rate of the sinoartrial node decreasing leading to cardiac arrest.

Benefits of the Oleander toxin action to the field of medicine

Heavily diluted portions of the Oleander tree extracts are employed in the treatment of a diverse array of health conditions. These include corns, muscle cramps, epilepsy, menstrual pain, asthma, skin disease, paralysis, cancer, and heart complications (American Cancer Society). It is however important to note that there is yet to be established a therapeutic dose for this toxin.

During the 60’s, a Turkish scientist sought to use these plant extracts for the treatment of cancer though the FDA warned manufacturers to cease marketing this product as safe for human use (McGrath). Oleander extracts were marketed under the brand name Anvirzel (American Cancer Society). This implies that the toxin has no tangible health benefits.

Zoltan Takacs

This is a world renowned toxicologist and an assistant professor and research associate at the prestigious University of Chicago. He has a profound fascination for snake venom based drug development. His home country is Hungary, where from a young age he exhibited a great fascination with snakes to the extent of rearing them in his own bedroom. He studied pharmacology in his home country and later pursed his PhD at New York’s Columbia University (UChicago News).

He has extensively researched a diverse array of snake venoms and has published a great deal of research studies to this effect. Drugs containing snake venom are used in the treatment of high blood pressure, cardiac failure, cardiac arrest, chronic pain as well as diabetes (UChicago News).

He provides that snake venoms normally attach to vital targets which are essentially the connections existing between muscle cells and nerve endings. These have the effect of affecting the cardiac and respiratory systems resulting in fatalities (UChicago News). Through biomedical engineering techniques, the action on the contact points is curtailed rendering the toxin useless. The ability to affect vital target at precise instances is employed towards creating new drugs aimed at preventing human suffering.


Works Cited

American Cancer Society. Oleander Leaf. American Cancer Society. 2008. Web. 22.11.2014. < >

Koerner, I. Brendan.  One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom. Wired. 06.24.14. Web. 22.11.2014. <>

McGrath, W. Jacob. Oleander (Nerium oleander). 2007. Web. 22.11.2014. < >

Meredith, Turnbough and Marcella, Martos. Venom!. ASU – Ask A Biologist. 27 Apr 2012. ASU – Ask A Biologist, Web. 22 Nov 2014.

UChicago News. Snake researcher Zoltan Takacs named National Geographic ‘Emerging Explorer’. UChicagoNews. 29.05.2010. Web. 22.11.2014. <>

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