Meet the deathstalker. As its name suggests, a sting from this beauty is far from pleasant. But that doesn’t reflect the other, shinier side of the coin: scorpion venoms are rich libraries of peptides – small proteins – that may lead to the discovery of new drugs. So far, more than 600 peptides from scorpions have been described. During 400 million years of evolution, these toxins have become highly specific for their molecular targets in order to block signals between nerve cells and quickly disable prey. Scientists recently analysed the venom of Leiurus abdullahbayrami – a newly discovered species found in southeastern Turkey, originally thought to be identical to the one shown – and think it may be a novel source of potassium and chloride channel blockers, drugs that block nerve transmission such as pain-signalling pathways. The venom also killed some types of bacteria, which could lead to a new line of antibacterial treatments.
Written by Nick Kennedy
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