Scorpion Venom Turned Into A Cure For Cancer
Molecular biologists have adapted the venom molecules of variegated Scorpions to treat autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer. To do this, scientists have changed the ion channels with which these molecules interact, according to the press service of the Russian Science Foundation (RPF), referring to the scientific journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
"Our global goal is to understand how the interaction sites of such proteins and potassium channels are arranged. This will help find the key to creating a new generation of drugs for personalized medicine, " said Alexey Kuzmenkov, one of the authors of the work, a researcher At the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Over the past ten years, biochemists and biologists have created many new drugs based on various poisons and other substances that have been extracted from the bodies of a variety of marine and land animals. For example, at the beginning of the last decade, biochemists from France created a powerful and non-addictive analgesic mambalgin based on the venom of the African black Mamba snake (Dendroaspis Polylepis).
As a rule, the venom of snakes, Scorpions, spiders, and other venomous animals contains a lot of proteins and signaling molecules that can penetrate the receptors or ion channels on the surface of nerve cells and interfere with their work. In a normal situation, blocking their operation leads to paralysis or convulsions. However, with the development of certain neurodegenerative diseases, this can benefit the patient. To do this, you need to create a version of the poison that would only act on specific neurons or have reduced or increased activity.
Kuzmenkov and his colleagues solved this problem using the venom of variegated Scorpions (Mesobuthus Eupeus). These arachnids are widely distributed in Syria, Turkey, southern Russia, and Central Asian countries. Substances from their venom cause itching, swelling, and pain in humans, but in most cases, it is not fatal to humans.
"Taming" the poison
Scientists have long been trying to adapt some components of the venom of variegated Scorpions to create medicines for malaria and certain infections, as well as to treat arthritis and inflammation. Russian researchers were interested in another component of their venom-the protein MeKTx13-3.
It is a short chain of amino acids that blocks the operation of several types of ion channels that control the circulation of potassium ions inside the cell. This protein affects KV1.1 channels most strongly, but it also affects some other similar structures, such as Kv1.3, although with less force.
Russian scientists have tried to modify the protein MeKTx13-3 in such a way as to make it act primarily on KV1.3 channels, whose disorders are associated with the development of multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer's diseases. To do this, scientists have found out how MeKTx13-3 interacts with all types of potassium ion channels.
The results showed that the structure of this molecule can be changed in such a way that it almost does not lose its ability to bind to channels of the Kv1.3 type. But it will significantly less affect Kv1.1 and other variants of these cellular structures. As it turned out, it was enough to replace only four links in the protein chain MeKTx13-3.
As shown by experiments on frog embryos, thanks to this, scientists have increased the selectivity of the new molecule, which is called MeKTx13-3_AAAR, by about a hundred times. This allows the use of "repurposed" Scorpion venom to fight various neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
As scientists suggest, something similar can be done with other toxins that affect the potassium channels. Subsequent experiments and calculations will show how realistic it is to implement in practice, the researchers concluded.