Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Animal-Based Medications

Posted by  //  December 19, 2021  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Did you know that powerfully toxic venom from scorpions, snakes and spiders can help combat debilitating infirmities including epilepsy, stroke, chronic pain and cancer?  

For centuries, people have looked to wildlife for remedies, but many “cures” (like those found in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine) are not supported by scientific evidence and have exploited some animals to the point of extinction, as with both black and white rhinos.

There are, however, several scientifically supported drugs that are animal derived, while others are synthetics modeled after animal biologics.  Today, researchers search a vast wildlife DNA database to identify unique compounds leading to the development of powerful, effective drugs to target specific ailments.   

Animal-derived medications often have less side effects than typical drugs.  For example, Ziconotide, an analgesic for chronic pain derived from cone snail toxin, is 1,000 times more potent than morphine but shows no evidence of leading to withdrawal symptoms.  

Numerous animal-inspired pharmaceuticals are used today, including one derived from Gila monster [photo] saliva to combat diabetes, another modeled on pygmy rattlesnake venom to prevent heart attacks, and a pit viper extraction that treats high blood pressure.  Ongoing research is exploring whether funnel-web spider and tarantula venoms can help reduce brain damage in stroke victims and kill cancer cells, respectively.  Perhaps it’s time to see these cringeworthy creatures in a new and grateful way!

Article by Margie Manthey
Photo by Jeff Servoss

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