they are beautiful, they are deadly. Almost invisible, buried in the sandy bottom of tropical seas, lurk cone snails to small fishes. Their shells are sought-after collector’s items, but for divers they are dangerous to life. A threatened, feels she fights with a harpoon that can penetrate wetsuits. It contains a nerve poison, the prey animals in the immediate movement of the rigid offset. In humans it paralyzes the muscles and breathing, which can lead to death.

“Gila monster”-Lizard

This is the poison of the 57-year-old Carsten Carstens owes, that he now lives halfway normal. Carstens is a two-meter man, broad-shouldered and well-obese. The former butcher verhob before the age of 22 on a cow’s quarter. Diagnosis: slipped disc, nothing in his life was more like before. After more than ten back surgeries of his lumbar spine is stiffened with metal rods and titanium intervertebral discs reinforced. Carstens suffers from pain in the most severe chronic. Previously, he swallowed daily for up to 60 tablets and got strong opiates, the fins last about an implanted pump directly into the nervous water at the spinal cord – it is not enough that the body got used to the high doses, the pain returned. Carstens’ neurosurgeon of the University hospital of Lübeck, who knew a last resort, the just a few pain therapists go – he lowered the Opiatdosis in the pump and added an amino acid mixture, artificial material of the cone produced, according to the Blueprint of a poison snail. For six years, Carstens pain can go free, on the lawn edge of the train standing in the local youth football team, and even Bicycle tours.


cone snails killing fish with harpoons. A part of your Neurotoxin is used as a highly effective pain reliever.

©Franco Banfi/DPA

medicine from venom. How can a mixture of a substance, the animals, cripples, kills, and decomposes, beneficial effects? Researchers around the world deal with this issue. According to estimates, there are more than 500,000 poisonous animals – spiders, Scorpions, snakes, lizards, centipedes, jellyfish, insects, even some mammals. Only a few Thousand have been studied. Here, you mountains, of which a growing number of scientists is convinced that it is a treasure for future drugs. Except for the cone snail’s venom, four additional substances gained approval for a Diabetes drug, according to the Blueprint of the Gifts of the Brazilian “Gila monster”Lizard and three drugs from snake venoms, including a proven Bestseller, which is based on the venom of the Brazilian Jararca-lance Viper. He founded a group of drugs, which plays a key role in hypertension therapy: the ACE inhibitors. Further compounds are in clinical testing. Perhaps, the great hope, is hidden under the chemical weapons of nature, one that points the way to new therapies against the unconquered Scourges of humankind, auto-immune diseases, cancer, or Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, this highly effective poisons, different than in the lab synthesized molecules, in the course of Evolution over millions of years perfectly to the body cells of animals of prey and enemies adapted.

“poison milk”

The native of Schwabe, Volker Herzig has devoted his career to this Vision. In his toxic Bank at the Australian University of Queensland in Brisbane, frozen toxins from more than 700 spider and Scorpion types of bearings deep. “The biggest Arachnid venom collection in the world, as far as I know,” he says. Every two years, Herzig travels to Europe, where he maintains the best contacts in the poison livestock scene to get a refill. Herzig is one of them. As a child, he fed a cross spiders with grasshoppers and watched in fascination as this and eating were interwoven, at the age of 14 he bought – after year-long discussions with his parents – the first bird spider.


For the “spider milking” stimulated Hearted of the muscles of the venom glands with a electric tweezers

©Djamila Grossman/star

On a Sunny October day Hearted to visit at a Swiss police officers, the houses of spiders in his basement, several Hundred birds, including species whose venom is not yet in Herzigs collection, the oldest is 25 years old. On the walls of the terrarium up to the ceiling. Behind glass panes, the animals snooze under stones, Branches and leaves. During the COP out scares you, and in plastic boxes, boxes, is Hearted on the work table, the Cutlery to the “venom milking”. His technique has been perfected to the biologist, but thousands of spiders: cover, Box turn over, then the night sitting active animal on the table, drowsy and movement lazy. Quickly Heartedly depressing it with the index finger and attacks the now defenseless animal between the second and third pair of legs in “spider grip”. With an electric pair of tweezers, he stimulates the mouth the glands and muscles of the Poison. Sometimes the animal is so irritable, that the poison of self from the more than a centimeter long, thorn-like Claws runs, which he keeps in a membrane abgeklebtes tube. “The membrane is impermeable to the saliva. Would inactivate the poison quickly.” Fear of bites? Not at all. “Never happened to me,” says the biologist. “And spiders are overrated, dangerous for us, only one half of one percent of all species.”

In the emergency room store 70 ampoules

for Many years, will go into the country, to Herzig and his colleagues in Australia have analyzed the treasure from Europe. Interesting to those venom components that fit like a key to the lock on specific Docking sites of human cells, which play a role in many diseases. A poison reacts with such Docking ports, then it must be disassembled into many Hundreds of individual components. Future medicines will not consist of the whole venom, but only from a component that calls the desired effect. “And that’s not usually the ingredients for the poison effect. Therefore, one must have not afraid,” says Herzig. The molecules at the end of this elaborate process, are valuable raw materials for the pharmaceutical research. Now Tests can be run on cells with disease characteristics, sick animals, and finally to the patient. Some of the toxins from arachnids, the research is already far advanced. The venom of the funnel web spider, the slips in Australia in warm shoes and whose bite has already killed children, contains a substance that could late to prevent brain damage after strokes. A part of a bird spinnengifts prevents epileptic seizures in Guinea pigs, another from a Scorpion venom finds tumors in a miraculous way, the way to cancer cells in the brain, where it will stick. “It could be groovezen to transport chemotherapy drugs to targeted tumors, the side effects would lessen,” says Herzig.


acute hearing loss patients could soon benefit from a part of the poison of the Malayan pit Viper


More research on the venom of the Malayan pit Viper is advanced. A substance from their poison is currently being tested on humans. Around 900 animals live in the snake farm of the medium-sized company Nordmark Arzneimittel GmbH in Uetersen, near Hamburg. “The facility is escape-proof,” says snake farm Manager, Petr Kliment, a broad-shouldered man with a long gray Beard, and carries its visitors through several locks. He wears white pants, white T-Shirt and rubber boots. “Protects from bites,” he says. Each snake is housed in a Plexiglas box, without plants, without soil. “The hygiene regulations for the production of medicinal products prior to writing this, unfortunately,” says Kliment. The animals are inconspicuous and small, some brown, others yellowish or reddish patterned. Their venom leads within minutes to severe tissue damage and internal bleeding, whole limbs can die off. When “milking” are not allowed to visitors to see. “You two are always together, highlights the snake on a hook out of the Box, the other grabs you behind the head.” You take gloves? “No, you need the touch of a finger. Be careful is all.” In the emergency room of 70 ampoules bearings with an effective antidote, the orange-colored cardboard boxes carry a Thai inscription. “If someone were to be bitten, would be a quick 20 ampoules consumed.”


The toxin has an eventful history behind it. Up in the 80s dealt with Doctors in Germany and Austria, so that poor blood circulation and frostbite in the case of skiers and mountaineers, they injected the funds to the affected areas directly under the skin. However, after a failed clinical trial in stroke patients, the drug disappeared from the market, then the manufacturer company was bought by a large Pharma company. “It was a shame because the stroke study was methodologically bad,” says Nordmark-chief Jörn ton, has taken over the management of the family business in the spring from the deceased father. “The drug has great potential for several diseases and has the advantage that it can be tested on the basis of previous experience directly to the people.” Currently ENT Doctors are testing him to the University hospital of Munich, in patients with acute hearing loss, for which there is as yet no proven effective therapy. He seems to acts as an anticoagulant and to improve the circulation in the finest blood vessels of the inner ear. In Guinea pigs with almost complete hearing loss, the hearing returned. “The study will consist of 99 patients, but recruitment of participants is difficult,” says ton. “It is prejudice is apparently because the active ingredient comes from a poison.” Now he set hopes on an interim analysis of 35 patients. “If success, we have to look for a Partner, alone, we are not able to cope with the additional funding.”


The Gila monster produces active ingredients, which Diabetes patients are treated. They have the effect of blood sugar lowering.


The life partner is difficult for all, the poison of Animal research have committed. “At our conferences, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry”, says Nicolas Gilles, one of the researchers at the research Institute CE Saclay, close to Paris since 20 years, of animal poisons. Therefore, he chose a new path. With funding of just under ten million euros, supported by companies and scientific institutes, he launched the EU research project “Venomics”, for the poisons of more than 200 species of animals in the high-throughput methods have been investigated. Came out of a toxic Bank with more than 3000 substances. He tested at four selected cell Docking sites that play in various diseases, a role. The hit rate was three percent. Three out of one hundred substances have the potential to become a drug. In the case of artificially produced molecules in the pharmaceutical research, the hit rate sun usually 0.03 per cent, i.e. by a factor of 100 lower, so Gilles. You will be leading negotiations with a global pharmaceutical company who wanted to buy the entire gift Bank.


A Toxin of the yellow Mediterranean Scorpion attaches itself to brain cancer cells. It could be combined with chemotherapeutic agents.


out Of the the corporations the future of the animal depends on the poison research. The hopes of the scientists are great, but money is missing everywhere. Start-ups cannot afford the many millions of euros for clinical trials alone, and the agents have the same risks as conventional medicines.

the future of animal venom research

The nerve toxin from the cone snail, was discovered a few years after the admission that not infrequently, psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions occur ideas. Therefore, the drug is metered in cautiously over several weeks, many Doctors fear the expense. This is one of the reasons that, so far, according to the manufacturer, less than 500 pain patients benefit from highly effective therapy.

Carsten Carstens has never felt any side effects. But whether this remains so is uncertain. Since the beginning of the therapy eight years ago, the dose had to be doubled. “I just hope that I’m lucky and it’s still as good a contract as in the past.”


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