Science Note/Sting to the Heart
Air Date: Week of March 4, 2011
A Bark Scorpion. (Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons)
New research suggests that venom from the Central American bark scorpion can be used in heart bypass surgery to prevent graft failure. Jessica Ilyse Smith reports.
GELLERMAN: Coming up â€“ getting in shape doing what comes naturally. But first, this weekâ€™s Note on Emerging Science from Jessica Ilyse Smith.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
SMITH: Scorpion stings can be life-threatening. But new research suggests that venom from the Central American Bark Scorpion may save lives by reducing heart bypass failure.
During bypass surgery, a vein is grafted into the heart. Sometimes, the bodyâ€™s healing response kicks in and creates new cell growth in the vein. This growth can restrict blood flow and is the most common cause of graft failure. To prevent this, researchers have turned to an ingredient in the Bark Scorpionâ€™s venom: margatoxin.
Scientists believe margatoxin is 100 times better than any other known compound at preventing bypass grafts from failing. Just a few molecules of the toxin obstruct the movement of calcium ions, which carry messages between cells. Stopping these messages can prevent unwanted cells from growing.
The new medication containing margatoxin is unlikely to take the form of a pill or a shot, but may be sprayed onto the vein before surgery. Scientists arenâ€™t yet sure of the treatmentâ€™s long-term success. But we do know thereâ€™s more to this Bark Scorpionâ€™s sting than we once thought. Thatâ€™s this weekâ€™s note on emerging science, Iâ€™m Jessica Ilyse Smith.
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