JAN 23, 2016 8:23 AM PST

10 Deadly Poisons That Could Save Your Life

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the wild, survival of the fittest for some plants and animals mean sporting lethal venoms and toxins to kill whatever bothers it. Nature's own toxins are exquisitely efficient at killing. Some of these toxic concoctions of proteins and peptides target the nervous system, causing death by paralysis. Some dissolve cells and tissues, causing death from the inside out. Some coagulate blood into the consistency of gelatin, turning the victim into a macabre human Jell-o mold.

But ironically enough, the chemical properties that make these natural toxins so deadly are also what make it so valuable as medical cures. As it turns out, some of the most active components of toxins affect the same enzymes and pathways in certain diseases. Deriving the key active ingredients from the toxins could yield huge therapeutic potentials. Aside from yielding the key chemical compound, toxins also lead scientists to better understand how certain diseases work, what pathways are affected, and what proteins may be curative.

So far, toxinologists are hard at work screening natural toxins for medicinal values. Of the possible 20 million toxins in nature, fewer than a 1,000 have been analyzed. And of that, only about a dozen have made it as a marketable drug. Watch the video to learn which poisons could be your next medicine.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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