Scorpion Venom: Pancreatitis Treatment?

GREENVILLE, N.C., March 31 (UPI) — U.S. medical scientists are studying the venom produced by a Brazilian scorpion to determine if it might be used to develop a treatment for pancreatitis.

North Carolina State University and East Carolina University researchers say they’re trying to develop insights into the venom’s effects on the ability of certain cells to release critical components. The findings, they said, might also prove useful in understanding targeted drug delivery.

East Carolina University Associate Professor Paul Fletcher said pancreatitis — an inflammation of the pancreas, is a common result of scorpion stings. Fletcher initiated the study to determine if scorpion venom might be used as a way to discover how pancreatitis occurs and what cellular processes are affected at the onset of the disease.

Fletcher noted a protein production system found in the pancreas seems to be targeted by the venom of the Brazilian scorpion Tityus serrulatus. He then contacted North Carolina State University physicist Keith Weninger, who had studied that protein system.

Weninger provided Fletcher with two different proteins that were engineered to be more easily used for experiments outside cells and tissues. Fletcher’s team subsequently demonstrated the scorpion venom attacked the proteins, affecting the pancreatic cell’s ability to absorb or release components. That, Fletcher said, results in pancreatitis.

The study’s findings appear in the March 5 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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