U.S. Government Lifts 3-Year Research Ban on Engineering Lethal Viruses


The United States National Institutes of Health is ending a three-year moratorium on funding research on extremely dangerous viruses that were previously considered too risky to study in a lab. On Tuesday, the agency announced new guidelines for scientists seeking NIH support in studying pathogens capable of creating a pandemic. Now, in NIH-approved labs, scientists can increase the strength of viruses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and influenzas to understand how they evolve and spread.

Scientists are celebrating the end of the moratorium as a forward step in their work and in public health in general. On Monday, NIH Director Francis Collins said in a media briefing that the decision will “help to facilitate the safe, secure, and responsible conduct of this type of research.”

The viruses affected by the previous ban, like H5N1 influenza, cause severe disease and have a high mortality rate. According to the World Health Organization, the mortality rate for human cases of H5N1 is 60 percent, the mortality rate for MERS is 35 percent, and the mortality rate for SARS ranges from one to 50 percent, increasing in precariousness as a person ages.

Lung tissue pathology due to SARS.

The U.S. government instituted its ban on funding experiments that could potentially make pathogens more transmissible in 2014. In these “gain-of-function” studies, designed with the goal of understanding disease pathways, scientists increase the ability of the infectious disease to spread by enhancing its pathogenicity, or its ability to cause disease.

 Doing so gives scientists a better understanding of how a virus interacts with its host and how genetics affects its strength, which is necessary for creating more effective vaccines.

The original ban was put into place after a series of careless biosafety incidents at federal research facilities. In 2014, two labs were forced to close after the facilities accidentally shipped live anthrax and a highly virulent strain of H5N1. In that same year, six vials of live smallpox were found in an FDA lab in Bethesda, Maryland, and 75 CDC employees in Atlanta were thought to be exposed to anthrax.

“During this pause, the U.S. Government will not fund any new projects involving these experiments and encourages those currently conducting this type of work — whether federally funded for not — to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed,” the White House Office of Science and Technology announced in 2014.

“The funding pause will not apply to the characterization or testing of naturally occurring influenza, MERS, and SARS viruses unless there is a reasonable expectation that these tests would increase transmissibility or pathogenicity.”

A 3-D images of Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS.

The lifting of the ban, which scientists previously argued was too broad, means that the government has decided these gain-of-function experiments aren’t a serious threat to the public. In the new guidelines, the NIH says that research involving potential pandemic pathogens is “essential to protecting global health and security” and outlines the new rules for studying the pathogens. These include the provision that says the experiment can only proceed if there are “no feasible, equally efficacious alternative methods to address the same question in a manner that poses less risk than does the proposed approach.”

Food As Medicine: 5 Dietary Changes That Treat Diseases, Including Epilepsy And High Blood Pressure


Food can work either to treat a disease or feed one. The simple idea that food could be used as preventive medication is an antiquated yet underrated one. In 431 BC,  Hippocrates, known as the founder of medicine, is recorded as having said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates was conceptually ahead of his time in believing illness to have a physical and rational explanation, stemming from functional foods. These types of foods, particularly fruits, herbs, and spices, exert positive health effects beyond the body’s basic dietary needs. They fight off a myriad of physiological problems, including infection, alleviate pain, boost the immune system, lower stress levels, and diminish digestive problems.

Over the centuries, diets have been designed, altered, and adjusted as the medical field has come to more intimately understand the human body’s relationship with food. In many cases, doctors discover a diet plan to treat and alleviate symptoms of a disease or condition when they fail to uncover a curative approach.

Here are 5 Diets Prescribed For Diseases:

1. MEDITERRANEAN DIET: HEART DISEASE

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among both men and women, killing nearly 800,000 people every year. The heart is the engine of the body, which requires clean fuel in order to run properly. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons against heart disease risk.

In 2015, a group of cardiologists from the Cleveland Clinic created a wellness plan designed to address the pitfalls in America’s diet. Central to their recommendations were wholesome foods that most closely align with the Mediterranean diet, including olive oil, fatty fish high in omega fatty acids, and cultured yogurt. The AHA’s current recommendations also follow the basis for the Mediterranean diet, which is the elimination or minimization of processed foods, sugars, salts, and an emphasis on healthy, whole foods.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the typical meal found on Crete, one of the small Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Its people have the lowest death rate from diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer. They eat off the land, which provides them plenty of fruits, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, nuts, and legumes. The small portion of protein they consume is typically fish or lamb cooked in olive oil and served with greens and fibrous whole grains.

2. DASH DIET: HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

According to the Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure can quietly cause damage to your body for years before symptoms present themselves. Your heart pumps blood throughout your entire body by means of arteries and veins. Healthy arteries are flexible, strong, and elastic in order to efficiently pump blood to the necessary organs, and to your brain and extremities. High blood pressure increases the pressure of blood flowing through the arteries, which can damage the inner lining or cause a bulge (aneurysm), which can ultimately lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, arterial disease, eye damage, and life-threatening internal bleeding.

Turning to the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet can help prevent damage before it occurs or stop it from worsening. The 2,000-calorie diet plan includes daily 7 to 8 servings of whole grains and unrefined breads, 4 to 5 servings of vegetables, 4 to 5 servings of fruits, 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy, 6-ounces or less of meat, poultry or fish, and 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and dry beans a week. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, when participants with high blood pressure followed the Dash diet it led to a reduction in blood pressure regardless of age, gender, or race.

3. KETOGENIC DIET: EPILEPSY

In the 1920s, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine recruited hundreds of children to undergo a radical diet overhaul called the ketogenic diet. The diet, which is very high in fat and low in carbohydrates, was designed to treat childhood epilepsy. When the body is in a fasting state, the brain triggers the body to convert sugar into fat by-products called ketones. According to the Harvard Gazette, the ketones activate a potassium channel in the brain cells that provide enough activity to maintain normal function in the brain.

Epilepsy causes seizures, which are essentially an electrical misfiring of the brain. When the brain is on the cusp of triggering a seizure, the potassium shuts the malfunction down and acts as a neurological surge protector. Researchers found 50 percent of patients stopped seizing permanently after 2 years on the dietary treatment.

4. GLUTEN-FREE DIET: AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES

Autoimmune diseases affect up to 50 million Americans and have as many as 80 different types of autoimmune diseases with similar symptoms that are often difficult to diagnose. It occurs when your immune system incorrectly defends the body against healthy cells, and as a result causes damage or abnormal tissue growth. Currently, there are no cure-all treatments for autoimmune disease, however there are treatments that focus on relieving symptoms and staving off their adverse and often painful effects.

One of the most well-known autoimmune diseases has been spotlighted recently because of the gluten-free fad. Celiac disease is an immune disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten because it damages the inner lining of their small intestine and prevents their body from absorbing nutrients. Gluten, which is a protein found in many breads and other grain-based products, is often avoided by those who suffer from Celiac disease in order for them to maintain a healthy inner lining and avoid malnourishment.

Gluten is also a major trigger for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism because the thyroid hormone receptors are nearly identical to gluten. When the body recognizes gluten as an allergy, the thyroid becomes confused and produces antibodies to attack. Roughly 30 percent of those with Celiac disease also have this autoimmune condition named after the Japanese specialist Hakaru Hashimoto who first wrote about it.

Sales of gluten-free products are projected to grow nearly 20 percent through 2019 and reach billions, reflecting the growing demand. Celiac disease varies in severity, so while some sufferers cannot stomach any gluten without experiencing damage, others can do so in moderation. Although avoiding gluten isn’t a cure to the Celiac disease, doctors increasingly recommend cutting gluten out to prevent flare-ups, which makes the disease easier and nearly symptom-free to live with.

5. HIGH-FIBER DIET: DIVERTICULITIS

The condition of diverticulitis is a painful inflammatory reaction that occurs in the colon or large intestine. Small pouches bulge outward along the line of the digestive tract to cause cramps, bloating, and constipation, and in serious cases, bleeding, tears, and blockages. Doctors aren’t sure what causes diverticulitis, however bacteria is found to grow inside the pouches, which accounts for the tears and infection within the intestinal walls. Treatment may include antibiotics and pain relievers; however doctors recommend a high-fiber diet to prevent reoccurrence.

Fiber is found in plant material, which helps the stool move smoothly through the colon. A lack of fiber can cause constipation, which makes stools harder and more difficult to pass, ultimately putting stress on the muscles of the colon. The domino effect increases the risk of diverticulitis, and can wind up sending the person into surgery.

Experts recommend including 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day into their diet to keep things moving nicely. Foods include cereals like shredded wheat, grains like whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, black beans, lentils, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, raspberries, blackberries, avocados, prunes, and raisins.

Some people get older three times faster than others.


Scientists are aiming to develop antibodies which could reverse the effects of an ‘aging’ protein which builds up in the blood and body. The findings could lead to medical breakthroughs in reducing memory loss and brain degeneration.
Reuters / Luke MacGregor

Blocking it could offer a reversal in memory decline and could potentially lead to the treatment of cognitive disorders, as B2M is found at increased levels in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Scientists came up with the conclusion after injecting B2M into the brains or blood of young mice. After a careful study, the UCSF team discovered that the rodents performed just as badly as elderly mice, doubling their errors navigating a familiar maze. After the protein flushed out from the young mice’s system, the subjects’ memory performance returned to normal, suggesting that the effect of B2M is reversible.

The conclusions of the study have been published in the journal Nature Medicine, and are the latest in a series of parallel experiments by various groups of scientists over the past few years.

To further back up their hypothesis that a reduction in B2M levels could treat memory impairment, UCSF researchers genetically engineered mice to lack the microglobulin. These rodents, as they aged, performed nearly as well as young animals at completing memory tests.

“What this shows is that you can manipulate the blood, rather than the brain, to potentially treat memory problems,”coauthor of the report, Saul Villeda told AFP. “And that’s so much easier … in terms of thinking of human patients.”

Villeda believes there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments, “one is to introduce pro-youthful blood factors and the other is to therapeutically target pro-ageing factors.”

Research is already in full swing to come up with the drug that could put a halt on or destroy B2M buildup in mice, and which could potentially be administered to humans.

“Right now, the idea is to develop antibodies or small molecules that can either block the effects of the protein or help to remove it from old blood,” says Villeda.

Scientists hope to block ‘old-age protein’, reverse memory loss — RT News


Scientists are aiming to develop antibodies which could reverse the effects of an ‘aging’ protein which builds up in the blood and body. The findings could lead to medical breakthroughs in reducing memory loss and brain degeneration.
Reuters / Shannon Stapleton

Blocking it could offer a reversal in memory decline and could potentially lead to the treatment of cognitive disorders, as B2M is found at increased levels in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Scientists came up with the conclusion after injecting B2M into the brains or blood of young mice. After a careful study, the UCSF team discovered that the rodents performed just as badly as elderly mice, doubling their errors navigating a familiar maze. After the protein flushed out from the young mice’s system, the subjects’ memory performance returned to normal, suggesting that the effect of B2M is reversible.

The conclusions of the study have been published in the journal Nature Medicine, and are the latest in a series of parallel experiments by various groups of scientists over the past few years.

To further back up their hypothesis that a reduction in B2M levels could treat memory impairment, UCSF researchers genetically engineered mice to lack the microglobulin. These rodents, as they aged, performed nearly as well as young animals at completing memory tests.

“What this shows is that you can manipulate the blood, rather than the brain, to potentially treat memory problems,”coauthor of the report, Saul Villeda told AFP. “And that’s so much easier … in terms of thinking of human patients.”

Villeda believes there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments, “one is to introduce pro-youthful blood factors and the other is to therapeutically target pro-ageing factors.”

Research is already in full swing to come up with the drug that could put a halt on or destroy B2M buildup in mice, and which could potentially be administered to humans.

“Right now, the idea is to develop antibodies or small molecules that can either block the effects of the protein or help to remove it from old blood,” says Villeda.

Suicide by soda: Sugary drinks kill 184,000 people a year, study says — RT News


Reuters / Sam Hodgson

If you love the taste of an ice cold soda, you may want to determine whether the flavor is actually worth the risk. Sugary drinks are killing around 184,000 people each year, according to a new study.

The research, published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal, points the finger at sugar-laden drinks ranging from sodas to sweetened iced tea, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages,”said study author Dariush Mozaffarian from Tufts University in Boston.

According to the research, most of the 184,000 global deaths are from people who die of diabetes due to the consumption of“sugar-sweetened beverages” (SSBs).

Another 45,000 die globally from cardiovascular diseases caused by sugary drink consumption, and 6,450 people die from cancers linked to sugar-laden beverages.

Those numbers prompted Mozaffarian to advise soda lovers to “substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from [their] diet.”

“There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year,” he added.

Although the numbers cite global deaths, Mexico had the highest death rate due to sugary drinks, with 450 deaths per million adults. It was followed by the US, with 125 estimated deaths per million adults.

Seventy-six percent of deaths related to sugary drinks occur in low-to-middle income countries, according to the report.

The findings “indicate the need for population based efforts to reduce SSB consumption throughout the world through effective health policies and targeted interventions directed at stemming obesity-related disease,” the report states.

The research examined 62 dietary surveys from more than 611,000 people, conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries. The participants represented almost two-thirds of the world’s adult population.

Published on Monday, the study is the first comprehensive assessment of worldwide deaths attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). It was conducted by an international team of researchers from Harvard, Tufts, and Washington universities in the US, and Imperial College London.

​2-week inactivity may leave kids with pensioner’s muscle strength


Reuters / Michael Kooren

Parents who allow their kids to ditch football practice for video games may want to re-think their strategy. A new study says it only takes two weeks for children to lose one-third of their muscle strength, putting them on par with someone 50 years older.

The research, conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging and the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, immobilized one leg of both younger and older men by attaching a pad to that limb.

To determine the effects of immobilization on muscle mass, the researchers measured maximal voluntary contraction, leg work capacity, and leg lean mass by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Muscle biopsies were also performed, and were evaluated for fiber type, fiber area and capillarization.

The findings showed that it took just two weeks for the young participants to lose one-third of their muscle strength, leaving them with the same physical ability as someone 40 to 50 years older.

That loss in muscle strength is very similar to what is found in older men, according to researcher Andreas Vigelsoe.

“Having had one leg immobilized for two weeks, young people lose up to a third of their muscular strength, while older people lose approx. one fourth,” Vigelsoe said in a university press release.

The research also stated that while both young and older men lose muscle mass when immobilized for two weeks, young men lose more – 485 grams compared to 250 grams. However, young men have more to lose in the first place, as they carry approximately 1kg more muscle mass in each leg than older men.

But the “loss of muscle mass is presumably more critical for older people, because it is likely to have a greater impact on their general health and quality of life,” researcher Martin Gram said.

Once the two-week immobilization period was over, the participants trained on a bicycle three to four times a week, for six weeks. Cycling was enough to regain muscle mass, but not muscle strength.

“Unfortunately, bicycle-training is not enough for the participants to regain their original muscular strength. Cycling is, however, sufficient to help people regain lost muscle mass and reach their former fitness level. If you want to regain your muscular strength following a period of inactivity, you need to include weight training,” Vigelsoe said.

And although biking aided with the return of muscle mass, re-gaining it wasn’t as quick or easy as losing it.

“It’s interesting that inactivity causes such rapid loss of muscle mass, in fact it’ll take you three times the amount of time you were inactive to regain the muscle mass that you’ve lost. This may be caused by the fact that when we’re inactive, it’s 24 hours a day,” Gram said.

Genetic test can predict if you survive radiation poisoning.


A team of scientists have found an accurate way to immediately identify long term radiation damage by examining blood-bound genes, allowing more accurate predictions of who can survive radiation exposure after a nuclear catastrophe or a dirty bomb.

Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin

In previous nuclear incidents, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the USSR or the 2011 Fukushima debacle in Japan, doctors and scientists were unable to accurately diagnose the radiation damage a patient has been exposed to.

They had to estimate the level of radiation poisoning by basing it on where someone was during a nuclear disaster or by taking blood samples and seeing how many white blood cells have died.

Neither of these two techniques can differentiate between a deadly dose of radiation and a very high but survivable one.

“After a radiation release, there is currently no way to tell who was exposed and who wasn’t, and if someone was exposed, is it lethal or not?” said Dipanjan Chowdhury of Dana-Farber’s Department of Radiation Oncology, the report’s senior author.

Chowdrhury together with a team of scientists at Harvard Medical School and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City have found a way of telling exactly what radiation dose someone has had by looking at the genes in their blood. Their findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A tiny group of free-floating pieces of genetic information called microRNAs reveal how much radiation someone has received as well as the damage this will have on their body.

The scientists subjected two groups of mice to 650 rads of radiation, which is a high but survivable dose, and 800 rads which is lethal.

By any other means of analysis both groups of mice looked the same for the first two weeks after exposure, and it was only by testing their microRNAs that the scientists could determine which mice would survive.

MicroRNAs were identified only 20 years ago. They help the human body translate DNA into a workable blueprint to build new cells.

According to the new research, radiation actively alters the structure of the microRNAs in mice; the bigger the dose the greater the change. Only 68 of almost 170 types of microRNAs are in the blood, but the scientists found that by analyzing just a handful of these they could tell the amount of radiation damage someone had received in the first 24 hours after exposure.

“All of the equipment used to detect these microRNAs is already widely available in many clinics. So there’s no obvious reason that such a test would be expensive,” Chowdhury said, as cited by Popular Mechanics.

He is, however, worried that developing an emergency test for assessing radiation poisoning might take quite some time, as “unlike developing cancer drugs, this is not an area that’s considered very lucrative.”

‘No tissue charring’: New Russian laser could revolutionize medicine, smartphones


Scientists at a Russian university have developed a unique metal-vapor laser, which can cut through bones, tissue or glass without burning or damaging them. They say the technology could be used in a wide range of fields – from medicine to smartphones.

Researchers at Tomsk State University are excited by the new laser because it is multi-functional and has the potential to be used in a number of different spheres. For example the ability to cut bone and tissue with no side effects could prove revolutionary for the medical industry.

The new device developed by the scientists is a strontium vapor laser and has the ability to operate at 10 to 12 different wavelengths, which researchers say is “exceptional” for vapor lasers, as it gives them so much versatility.

“There is no such laser anywhere else in the world, and there is a lot of interest in it,” said 73-year-old Professor Anatoly Soldatov, who is dean of the Innovative Technology Department, told the Siberian Times. He added that its optimum wavelength was 6.45 microns.

Technology giant Samsung has already shown interest in the revolutionary lasers. The company’s electronics’ department had sent the scientists some glass samples to test with the strontium vapor laser and the results proved to be an eye-opener.

Photo courtesy / Tomsk State University press service

Industrial devices normally used to cut glass for smartphones and tablets normally use carbon dioxide lasers at a wavelength of 10.6 microns. This laser does not actually cut through the glass, rather it heats it up. However, this process means that between 20 percent and 30 percent of the glass cut has to be thrown away because of defects such as chipping.

“We have a multi-wave system that combines both surface and in-depth thermal detachment which results into a perfect surface. A study with an electronic microscope showed that the number of imperfections [when cutting glass with a strontium laser] is one-hundredth the size compared to cutting with carbon dioxide laser,” Soldatov told the newspaper.

Photo courtesy / Tomsk State University press service

The scientists are now looking to perfect their technology in order to cut live tissue. They are also working to shorten the pulse duration to just a few nanoseconds, which will increase the energy density and thus its power.

The development of lasers in Tomsk dates back over half a century, with the first one launched in 1963. Over the last few decades the university has produced a number of different lasers, including helium-neon, argon, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Soldatov added that after the millennium, Vanderbilt University in the US became interested in researching a free-electron laser. They were trying to find a perfect wavelength for drilling through bone and the cutting soft tissues, due to its potential importance for research into transplants.

“The first thing they determined was the best wavelength is 6.45 microns. At this wavelength it was possible to make good incisions and you can choose the mode in which the tissue charring practically does not occur,” he said. However, they were still looking for the best laser to carry out this task.

They eventually got in contact with Tomsk State after coming across an old publication from 1983. Following some more tests, Soldatov realized that the strontium vapor laser was the most suitable, due to its ability not to induce any burning or damage while operational.

Venom As Medicine: How Spiders, Scorpions, Snakes, And Sea Creatures Can Heal


Tarantula
Tarantulas harbor proteins and toxins that are used as painkillers. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Evolutionarily, humans are scared of creepy-crawlers and poisonous things. Our fight-or-flight kicks in whenever we’re confronted with something that has more than 4 legs, stares at us with 8 glistening eyes, or exhibits protruding fangs or a stinger. Either you kill that spider or you run away from it, as shudders contort your body and squeals escape your lips.

However, science shows that the venoms of the natural world can actually be harvested as potential medicinal treatments and cures. From using scorpion, bee, and snake venom for cancer treatments to employing venom immunotherapy to treat insect sting allergies, researchers have investigated the therapeutic effects of a wide variety of animal and insect poisons. And it turns out that when used the right way, the poisons that would typically kill us can actually save our lives, too.

“Ironically, the properties that make venom deadly are also what make it so valuable for medicine,” Jennifer Holland writes for National Geographic. “Many venom toxins target the same molecules that need to be controlled to treat disease. Venom works fast and is highly specific. Its active components — those peptides and proteins, working as toxins and enzymes – target particular molecules, fitting into them like keys into locks.”

Thousands of animals are venomous — from snakes, scorpions, spiders, and bees to lizards, octopuses, fish, and snails. Researchers still haven’t studied or unleashed all the medicinal properties of these thousands of different venoms, all of which are seething with various toxins, proteins, molecules, and enzymes that could potentially be used to treat diseases. But below are the current ways that scientists have used venoms in medicine.

SpiderTarantulas produce toxins that are used in painkiller drugs. 

Spiders

According to a 2012 study out of the University of Buffalo, a particular protein found in spider venom could work as a treatment for muscular dystrophy — an umbrella term for a number of diseases that cause loss of muscle mass and eventual inability to walk, move, or swallow. The study found that the protein helped stop muscle cells from deteriorating, and though it wasn’t a cure, it assisted in slowing down the progression of the disease.

Tarantulas, in particular, have been shown to harbor healing properties in their venom. One 2014 study out of Yale University described a new screening process known as “toxineering” that could sift through millions of spider toxins and find which ones were most compatible in painkiller drugs. They found that one toxin in the Peruvian green velvet tarantula could block chronic pain. Another recent study found that 7 different compounds in spider venom could potentially be used to help people with chronic pain too. Researchers analyzed 206 different spider species, and found that 40 percent of the venoms had compounds that blocked nerve activity linked to chronic pain.

centipedeThe creepy crawlers that hang out in niches and in your basement may provide scientists with certain therapeutic properties. 

Centipedes

It turns out that centipedes may be used as painkillers, too. In one study, researchers examined the effects of the Chinese redheaded centipede which injects its prey with venom that blocks a sodium channel protein and ultimately paralyzes its victims. They then tested mice with a peptide taken from the venom, and found that it was comparable to the effects of morphine — the mice were able to tolerate thermal, chemical, and acid pain tests.

ScorpionsScorpions may be some of the freakiest creepy-crawlers on this planet, but their venom has medicinal properties. 

Scorpions

Similarly to the centipede and spider peptides that are able to interact with sodium channels, researchers found in a 2010 study that scorpion venom too could have painkiller properties. But this isn’t all: researchers also found that scorpion venom could assist in fighting cancer.

Seattle researchers developed something called “tumor paint” out of scorpion venom, which was successful in identifying brain cancer and lighting it up for doctors to see. They re-engineered a specific protein from the Israeli deathstalker scorpion to make it bind to cancer cells, then tied it to a fluorescent molecule that acts as a sort of flashlight or glow to assist in surgeries or identifying cells within the body. “The scorpion toxin finds the cancer cells and drags the flashlight into them and makes them glow brilliantly,” Dr. Jim Olson, a brain cancer specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said, according to ABC News.

SnakeSnake venom is already used by doctors in various drugs to treat heart problems and even disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Wikimedia

Snakes

Scientists have been studying the medicinal properties of various snake venoms for decades. For example, certain Tunisian vipers have been shown to have anti-tumor properties. Others have antibacterial and painkiller features.

Hemotoxins in snake venom target the circulatory system, and typically attack the body’s clotting ability and muscles. But scientists have also found ways to use hemotoxins for medicine — such as treating heart attacks and blood disorders. Other drugs have been developed from neurotoxins in snake venom, which are used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as stroke and brain injuries; more research will need to be done to better understand the medicinal properties of these toxins.

sea anemoneSea creatures like anemones that contain poison have also been shown to have medicinal properties.

Sea Creatures

Deep in the ocean, thousands and even millions of critters lurk way out of our sight. But many of them may harbor potential cures and treatments for diseases in their venom. One studyfound that sea anemones and core snails produce toxins that could treat autoimmune diseases like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.

‘Breakthrough’ malaria vaccine developed, but only partially effective – scientists — RT UK


Reuters / Ina Fassbender

Although the drug has only shown a partial effect, it nevertheless represents the most clinically-advanced vaccine against malaria to date.

“We finally have in our sights a candidate vaccine that could have a real impact on this terrible disease that affects many children during their first years of life,” principal investigator Kwaku Asante said in a statement released ahead of World Malaria Day on Saturday.

“The large number of children affected by malaria, sometimes several times per year, means that this vaccine candidate, if deployed correctly, has the potential to prevent millions of cases of malaria,” Asante added.

The British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has spent 30 years developing RTS,S.

During trials, 15,500 children in seven African countries were given the vaccine. The results showed that Malaria cases were halved in the first year.

Although, as time passed, protection wore off (dropping to 28 percent after four years), cases were still reduced by almost a third.

Children who received a booster – meaning an extra dose – showed a significant defense against the disease. The extra dose increased the protection rate in the fourth year to 36 percent, the study claims.

The final results indicate the World Health Organization (WHO) will recommend routine use of the vaccine as early as this year, if regulators approve. The results were published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reports.

Study co-author Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Reuters: “The results are not quite as good as we would have hoped, but it still works.” However, he is still hopeful the new vaccine could prevent numerous deaths.

“Given that there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases in 2013, this level of efficacy potentially translates into millions of cases of malaria in children being prevented,”he said.

“Unfortunately, this is not as big an effect as that seen with some other vaccines,” like that against measles, he told AFP.

The mosquito-borne disease kills some 600,000 people each year, of whom more than 75 percent are children under the age of five, according to WHO. The disease kills about 1,200 children in sub-Saharan Africa on average per day.

Often, people die of malaria because they don’t have access to quality healthcare.

Last year’s Ebola outbreak has drawn renewed attention to malaria and the lack of sufficient health care in many developing countries.

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