Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Our Deadly Friend
05 January 2016

Our Deadly Friend

The venom of the stonefish is among the most deadly of any sea creature – but X-ray analysis of its complex atomic structure suggests that it could help save the lives of transplant patients. The fish lives in the Indo-Pacific region and protects itself with razor sharp spines containing stonustoxin – a poison that turns out to be an ancient relative of perforin, a human immune protein that attaches itself to diseased cells and kills them by making holes in the surface. The downside of perforin is that it also attacks cells of transplanted tissue – for example, up to one in three bone marrow transplant therapies for leukaemia fails because of the immune response. Studying stonustoxin is providing insights into how perforin-like proteins assemble themselves to puncture cells – helping scientists to develop immunosuppressants that inhibit perforin and improve the success rate of transplant therapies.

Written by Mick Warwicker

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.