Poison to cure

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Promising research on the venom of the Israeli yellow scorpion is yielding the possibility to eradicate addictive opiates: no more morphine overdoses and no more side effects from pain medications.

Michael Gurevitz, researcher and professor at Tel Aviv University (TAU) is "investigating new ways for developing a novel painkiller based on natural compounds found in the venom of scorpions," according to American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU), an organization that supports TAU's students and research.

On February 16, Gurevitz explained to AFTAU, "this new class of drugs could be useful against serious burns and cuts, as well as in the military and in the aftermath of earthquakes and natural disasters. Instead of running the risk of addiction, this venom-derived drug, mimicking the small peptide toxin, would do what it needs to do and then pass from the body with no traces or side-effects."

"The Chinese, major practitioners of what we call 'alternative medicine,' use scorpion venom, believing it to have powerful analgesic properties," Gurevitz continued, "we study how these toxins pursue their effects in the Western sense to see how it could be applied as a potent painkiller" by the extraction of peptides from the venom.

This research could possibly put an end to using morphine as a mainline drug to treat pain. Another study published in December 2009 in the Journal of Proteome Research, a publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS), "found 10 major proteins, which show different expression between physiological cell culture and morphine treatment." Morphine, highly addictive with innumerable sides effects and withdrawal symptoms, is being further researched to pinpoint dependence triggers - perhaps the better answer is in the scorpion.

Full study in Molecular Biology and Evolution:

http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/msp310v1?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1=Gurevitz%2CM&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&fdate=12/1/2009&resourcetype=HWCIT

Full study on morphine markers and dependence: http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/pr900443r

Gurevitz to AFTAU: http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=11707

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