New insecticides from sea anemone toxins?

The venom from Anthopleura may soon be used to develop environmentally friendly pest control and new medicines.

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A new generation of insecticides is on the horizon after the discovery by a team of Belgian researchers that the sea anemone’s venom harbours several toxins. The finding holds great promise for agriculture as the new insecticides would be environmentally friendly and avoid insect resistance.

According to researcher Jan Tytgat from the University of Leuven’s Laboratory of Toxicology, toxins are revealing themselves more and more as friends instead of foes. The discovery of the Anthopleura toxins, he explains, is similar to finding a new drug.
The researchers say that since these toxins disable ion channels that mediate pain and inflammation, they could also be used to spur the development of drugs for pain, cardiac disorders, epilepsy and diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, points out that the discovery of the toxin should provide an extra incentive to preserve the fragile coral reefs where anemones thrive.

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