W von Papinešu
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SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia) 03 December 10 Scientists take heart over lizard venom (Bridie Smith)
Scientists have discovered five new types of lizard venom which could prove a goldmine for researchers working on the next generation of blood pressure and heart disease medication.
The results of a wide-ranging four-year study, led by University of Melbourne venom expert Bryan Fry, also found some lizard species thought not to be venomous actually were.
''Their venom is unlike anything we've ever seen,'' Dr Fry said. ''These are brand-spanking new toxin classes, completely unique.''
Of the five new classes of venom discovered, three already show huge potential for drug design and development because of the small size of their compounds. ''You want to start with something small,'' Dr Fry said. ''If you start with something big then there is a greater chance of the immune system reacting violently to it ‚Ä¶ we have found three that aren't going to be picked up by the immune system at all.''
Dr Fry said the next step was to ''reinvent the wheel'' and make an artificial version of the venom. The aim would be to make it more potent and stable than the naturally occurring venom and also to extend its life in the human body.
The study involved collecting and analysing the venom of 25 lizards from around the world including the monitor, North American alligator lizard and European legless lizard. These lizards belong to a group of venomous lizards called anguimorphs which have, scientifically speaking, been an untapped resource.
However, Dr Fry said it was possible that ''obscure little lizards'' could hold the key to the next wonder drug - and this being the case, it was vital that their habitat was preserved.
Historically, reptile venom has proved a handy tool for scientists developing drugs for high blood pressure. ''But these three are completely different, which is important because they hit the blood pressure system completely differently,'' Dr Fry said. ''Basically, we now have three more opportunities for treating high blood pressure.''
The findings have been published in this month's edition of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.
Scientists take heart over lizard venom
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