Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Snake venom-producing 'organoids' grown in the lab enables snake-free toxin research

01 March 2020

Fake Bite

It sounds like a comic book villain’s evil plan: create an artificial biological device that can produce the deadly toxins found in snake venom. But it’s actually a new approach from scientists trying to develop methods to counter the dangers of snakebite, which kills over 100,000 people each year. Researchers have developed a technique to grow miniature, simplified versions of venom glands, as organoids, which produce and secrete toxins naturally found in venom. They can produce organoids to match various species, which provide a reliable source of venom for studying – much easier than keeping an army of deadly snakes in your lab. The organoids (pictured, with fluorescence microscopy used to highlight different features of the 3D structure) will be a useful tool for analysing the underlying biology of venom, developing antidotes to it, and maybe even harnessing its potent powers for new drug development.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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