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Robots Extract Scorpion Venom For Cancer Research

First Posted: Jul 04, 2017 04:50 AM EDT
Wildlife In The Negev Desert
A Yellow scorpion glows in the dark. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Scorpion venom has been used for medicine, including cancer research. Usually harvested manually, the process can potentially be deadly for harvesters, which is why scientists developed a robot that can do the milking for them.

Mouad Mkamel, the designer of the robot, said that his creation makes venom recovery fast and safe. In a statement, he shared that traditionally, extraction of scorpion venom usually takes at least two experimenters. It also poses numerous risks including potentially deadly stings and electric shocks from the simulators that are used to extract the said venom.

Wired noted that this is the reason scientists were looking into robotics to make the process safer. The researchers said that they designed VES-4 -- a lightweight, portable robot -- that can be used in lab and on field. It is designed specifically to extract scorpion venom without harming the animal. It also serves as a robot for safety. Mkamel shared, "VES-4 could be used by one person using a remote control to safely recover scorpion venom remotely."

Scorpion venom is not actually as simple as it is made out to be. Research in 2013 showed that the venom can actively work as a painkiller. If proven effective, the venom can eventually lead to the development of new drugs for humans.

The painkiller from scorpion venom could also assist in future studies regarding cancer treatments. Scorpion venom can illuminate into a so-called "tumor paint" that uses fluorescent molecules attached to natural toxins. These attach to cancers, effectively lighting them up, and can someday pinpoint the exact location and extent of cancerous growths.

In an unlikely tandem, scorpion venom may also help in the fight against malaria. In 2011, a researcher from the University of Maryland was able to modify fungus loaded with a substance from scorpion venom. With this, scientists were able to attack malaria parasites found in mosquitoes.

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