Researchers studying snake venom – with the goal of producing an anti-venom – say that snakes’ venom glands have co-opted many proteins that originally played more mundane roles elsewhere in their bodies. They studied snake venom via sequenced genomes of the deadly venomous King Cobra and the non-venomous Burmese Python, and compared the two to shed light on how each evolved. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their work in December 2013.
These researchers – at Bangor University, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the universities of Leiden in Holland and Texas, Arlington – say their work provides “the first comprehensive insight into how snake venom evolved into the sophisticated cocktail of different proteins it is today.”
Snakebite is a major killer in many tropical nations tropical nations, causing thousands of deaths each year. Researchers hope their studies of snake venom will ultimately lead to an anti-venom that could save lives.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.