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Scorpion venom is toxic to cancer cells

May 27, 2015
Investigación y Desarrollo
In the venom from a scorpion from Colima, south-west state of Mexico, over a hundred proteins have been found and identified as having a 'possible' toxic effect against cancer cells.

In the venom from the Centruroides tecomanus scorpion from Colima, south-west state of Mexico, over a hundred proteins have been found and identified a "possible" toxic effect against cancer cells, reveals a scientific study.

The preliminary investigation is carried out by specialists of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Colima (UCOL), who have identified peptides (amino acid molecules) that destroy cancer cells in vitro.

Laura Leticia Valdez Velazquez, head of research, said that when the toxin, derived from scorpion venom, invades channels in the cells with this disease it produces cellular damage until killing them.

"We have identified a highly selective group of peptides, which indicates that they could specifically bind to cancer cells and cause their death," she indicates.

Centruroides tecomanus species is one of the most venomous scorpions of the country. The UCOL already has the genetic sequences of the protein components of the venom.

The scientific team took advantage of the great number of scorpions found in Colima. They began with the collection and extraction of venom, inoculating and immunizing rabbits as part of the teaching career in Pharmaceutical Chemistry Biologist. From this they decided to study the venom with the support of Lourival Possani, from the Institute of Biotechnology of the National Autonomous University od Mexico (UNAM).

The researcher explains that UCOL undertook the task of characterizing each component from the arachnid toxins, one of the most venomous of the continent. Currently it has identified a group of peptides (about 10) in order to evaluate the have greater toxic effect against lymphoma cells.

"The venom toxins act on ion channels of the cancer cell damaging them. Our interest is for the cell to be selectively removed. We have found that these peptides have affinity with these cells, that is, they could specifically bind to them and induce cancer death."

In parallel, the research team of the UCOL conducted a study on the effect of scorpion venom in models of Parkinson's disease.

People with this disease (Parkinson's) are affected because neurons are damaged and no dopamine is produced, a neurotramisor responsible for controlling muscle movement. The team has tested the scorpion venom toxins in animal models noting that these toxins are attached to receptors on dopaminergic neurons and increases the release of dopamine, which is displayed with future promising effects for sufferers of this disease.

Although the research is at a primary stage, this is the first time therapy with the venom of scorpions is used against cancer and Parkinson in Mexico.

For the time being, experts have been observed in laboratory animals that the presence of such toxins releases dopamine.

"The idea is that this toxin works for the release of dopamine in Parkinson, condition where there is an absence of the substance. And for cancer we need to know what is the specific peptide, responsible for the effect that causes the death of these cells. The idea is to kill cancer cells; however, this doesn't occur in all types of cancer , there are very specific toxins, that is another task we have to review, see in which type of cancer the toxins have effect, " said Laura Valdez.

The research was supported by the Fund for Strengthening Infrastructure to equip laboratories, granted by the National Council for Science and Technology in Mexico (CONACYT).

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Investigación y Desarrollo. "Scorpion venom is toxic to cancer cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2015. <>.
Investigación y Desarrollo. (2015, May 27). Scorpion venom is toxic to cancer cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2024 from
Investigación y Desarrollo. "Scorpion venom is toxic to cancer cells." ScienceDaily. (accessed March 1, 2024).

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