Sea anemone toxin could yield insecticides

Nov. 29, 2012 at 4:25 PM
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LEUVEN, Belgium, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Venom from sea anemones could yield a new generation of environmentally friendly insecticides to which bugs would not become resistant, European scientists say.

As insects evolve to become resistant to insecticides, finding new sources for the pesticides will be an ongoing challenge, researchers at the Laboratory of Toxicology at the University of Leuven in Belgium said.

Sea anemone venom harbors several toxins that are potential candidates for effective insecticides, they said.

"Are toxins friend or foe? The more we understand these toxins, they are more friend, and less foe," researcher Jan Tytgat said.

"Toxicology shows us how to exploit Mother Nature's biodiversity for better and healthier living."

Tytgat and colleagues extracted venom from the sea anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima, and purified three main toxins to study their structure, functional role and mechanisms of action.

The toxins were found to contain compounds that could lead not only to new insecticides but possibly new treatments for human diseases.

Since these toxins disable ion channels that mediate pain and inflammation, the researches said, they could also spur drug development aimed at pain, cardiac disorders, epilepsy and seizure disorders, and immunological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

"Because these toxins are aimed at important ion channels present not only in insect cells, they form the leading edge of our new biotechnology," Tytgat said.

The finding were reported in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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