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An international research team is studying various types of lizard venom as possible treatments for blood-clotting diseases, which lead to millions of cases of stroke, heart attack and deep-vein thrombosis annually.
The study is being led by Bryan Fry, an associate professor at The University of Queensland (UQ), who noted that while snake venom research has been extensive, lizard venom research was still in its infancy. Seeking to remedy this, he is looking to shine the light on lizards that can serve as potential sources of life-saving medication.
“The idea of using venoms to create medication is not new, as has been exhibited by snake venom being used to treat high blood pressure and cone snail venom being used to treat pain,” Dr Fry said.
“By investigating the actions of lizard venoms, we can potentially use them to disrupt life-threatening blood clots and turn these compounds into life-saving drugs.”
Dr Fry and his colleagues have studied venoms of 16 species of monitor lizards, including the Komodo dragon and related species from Africa, Asia and Australia, and compared them to the venom of four other lizards, including the Gila monster. Their results were published in the journal Toxins.
The team found multiple novel compounds, some of which have potential to be used in drug design in development — particularly in stroke treatments. The study also showed that many monitor lizard venoms have a selective action on different chains of the blood-clotting protein fibrinogen.
“It is this specialised targeting that has made similar snake venom enzymes so successful in treating blood diseases,” Dr Fry said.
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