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Scorpion Venom Tapped as Pesticide !

A scorpion-inspired pesticide could kill specific insects without harming people, the environment or beneficial animals.Scorpion venom could supply an ideal pesticide, but scientists need to first find a way to deliver the venom to targeted pests.Getty ImagesScorpion venom could target specific species of harmful insects.The venom would not endanger health the way chemical pesticides do.The trick lies in finding a way to deliver the venom to targeted insects.Scorpion venom can paralyze, inflict pain, even kill. But instead of recoiling in fear from the arachnids, scientists are scrutinizing venom in the hopes of harnessing its power to fight insects, treat cancer and more.In one approach, Israeli researchers have cloned the genes involved in producing specific toxic protein compounds. They have developed ways to produce and manipulate these toxins inside bacteria grown in their lab. They have also deciphered the three-dimensional structures of some of those compounds and figured out which surface of those structures bind to the nervous systems of insects.These technical developments may eventually help scientists develop new, scorpion-inspired pesticides that would zero in on specific insect pests without harming people, the environment, or other animal bystanders."You should consider scorpions like a gift from nature," said Michael Gurevitz, of Tel Aviv University in Israel. "Nature has developed compounds during millions of years that show complete selectivity to various groups of animals. Understanding how these toxins affect the nervous system of animals may assist in preparing chemicals that mimic the toxin activity and can be produced industrially."For decades, scientists have been probing the compounds in venom from scorpions, spiders, sea anemones, cone snails and other creatures. Plenty of studies have dissected venom to see what types of proteins are in it, what those proteins look like, and how they work -- by, for example, causing paralysis or breaking down cells.A major goal has been to spin those findings into practical applications. For example, venom compounds are appealing candidates for pesticides because many of them are highly specialized to kill certain types of insects but have no effect on people, other mammals or beneficial insects, like honeybees.The toxins that interest researchers are biodegradable, so they would not accumulate in the ground or drinking water, linger on vegetable skins, or endanger our health like modern chemical pesticides do.
/Discovery News

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