So here's one thing you probably didn't know about Peter Parker: All that spider venom in his bloodstream not only makes him super-powerful, but also keeps Mary Jane satisfied through the night. Yes, you read that right - new research is showing that spider venom could be used to treat impotence. That's not the end of the story, either; radioactive scorpion venom can also be used as a cancer treatment. You may have heard that chocolate-covered bugs are crunchy and delicious, but it turns out that arthropods have even more to offer us.An October 1 article in the Telegraph describes the useful properties of scorpion venom:
The scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus lives in the Middle East and among the powerful cocktail of neurotoxins packed into its venom is a peptide that is non-toxic to humans but binds to tumour cells. In laboratory experiments, the peptide has invaded tumours in breast, skin, brain and lung tissue, but left healthy cells untouched. "It's as if the tumours collect it," Michael Egan of the company TransMolecular in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told the New Scientist.
Researchers at TransMolecular treated peptide cells with a radioactive isotope of iodine, and then injected them into the malignant brain tumors of 59 patients. On average, the patients who had received a high dose of the radioactive peptide lived three months longer. This was an encouraging enough result to inspire a team at the University of Chicago to start new trials, delivering the radioactive peptide directly to the bloodstream of other patients with brain cancer. If that goes well, it'll be a surprising gift from the frightening-looking thing in the picture above — a scorpion that Middle Easterners call the deathstalker.
The deathstalker could have a pretty exciting face-off with the American brown recluse spider (above), whose bites can destroy human limbs and cause death. Despite the danger of the brown recluse spider, however, two professors from Cornell University set out to analyze their venom. Another Telegraph article reports:
"We show how using NMR spectroscopy for the analysis of a complex mixtures such as spider venom one can find new and entirely unexpected chemistry," said Prof Schroeder. "Our research shows that brown recluse venom contains important, previously undetected components that have been overlooked." ... The venom... contained messenger chemicals that work in the brain and on nerves. In addition, the venom has been shown to contain several different proteins, including enzymes such as hyaluronidase, deoxyribonuclease, ribonuclease, alkaline phosphatase, and lipase, which help to break down tissue, among other things.
These researchers are hoping that these newly discovered compounds could treat conditions like arthritis and erectile dysfunction. Don't let the fascinating chemical composition of the spider's venom fool you, though. You should still avoid it and (obviously) the deathstalker. With the right lab preparation, they could be responsible for keeping your brain and your genitals fit — but you can thank them later. Radioactive scorpion venom could be used to fight brain cancer [Telegraph] Spider venom could be used in impotence treatment [Telegraph] Images from Wikipedia.