Toxins from venom and poison sources are also giving us a clearer picture of how proteins that control many of the body’s crucial cellular functions work. Studies of the deadly poison tetrodotoxin (TTX) from puffer fish, for instance, have revealed intricate details about the way nerve cells communicate.
“We’re motivated to look for new compounds to lessen human suffering,” Angel Yanagihara of the University of Hawaii told me. “But while doing that, you may uncover things you don’t expect.” Driven in part out of revenge for a box jellyfish sting she endured 15 years ago, Yanagihara discovered a potential wound-healing agent within the tubules that contain jellyfish venom. “It had nothing to do with the venom itself,” she said. “By getting intimate with a noxious animal, I’ve been informed way beyond my expectations…”
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