Venomous people could become a reality, scientists say


Mice and even humans have the potential to become venomous, according to research — giving a new meaning to the description of someone as a toxic person.

Scientists have found the genetic foundation needed for oral venom to evolve is present in both reptiles and mammals, and said their study shows the first concrete evidence of a link between venom glands in snakes and salivary glands in mammals.

The research, published in the PNAS journal, indicates that while neither humans or mice are venomous currently, our genomes have the potential under certain ecological conditions.

Study author Agneesh Barua joked: “It definitely gives a whole new meaning to a toxic person.”

He described venom as “a cocktail of proteins” used by animals to immobilise and kill prey, as well as for self-defence.

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For their research, instead of focusing on genes that code for the proteins that make up the toxic mixture, scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the Australian National University looked for genes that work alongside and interact with the venom genes.

They used venom glands from the Taiwan habu snake – a pit viper found in Asia – and identified about 3,000 of these “co-operating” genes, noting they played important roles in protecting the cells from stress caused by producing lots of proteins.



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