Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Evolution of Snake Venom

This is cool. Imagine your job was working out how snake venoms evolved. This is not only neat itself but may have important medical applications in that harnessing some of the venoms components may be beneficial. For example, one component of venom from the inland taipan is related to atrial natiuretic pepetides which are important in relaxing blood vessels and may be a good treatment for heart failure.

You also get to use cool technology developed (mostly) as offshoots of the human genome project:
Dr. Fry is able to identify all of the genes that are active in venom gland cells, and then read their DNA sequence. About half of the genes that are active in a venom-gland cell produce well-known "housekeeping" proteins that are essential to any animal cell. Most of the others are venoms.

He's also made other cool discoveries like the fact that most pathogenic venom molecules are evolved from gene duplications of proteins expressed in other organs. The duplications are then duplicated, expressed in venom cells and evolve for increased toxicity.

All in all a very cool job.


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