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毒蛇,蝎子和毒巨蜥:能杀人,也可救命

更新时间:2018/11/25 9:21:18 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How venoms are shaping medical advances
毒蛇,蝎子和毒巨蜥:能杀人,也可救命

The dangers of venoms are well documented, but these deadly toxins can also save lives.

对毒蛇和蝎子的毒性我们都有所闻,但这些致命的毒素也可以挽救生命。

Toxicologist Dr Zoltan Takacs says: "Venom toxins are the only molecules on Earth explicitly selected by evolution to take a life in less than one minute”. In 2015, David Warrell, tropical medicine specialist at Oxford University, estimated that 200,000 deaths a year were caused by snakebites.

毒理学家塔卡克斯(Zoltan Takacs)博士说:“毒液是生物进化过程中明确的自然选择的结果,让它成为地球上唯一能在一分钟内夺人性命的分子结构。”牛津大学热带医学专家沃瑞尔(David Warrell)2015年估计,全世界每年有20万人被毒蛇咬死。

The development of new antivenom is an ongoing struggle, however researchers have found that the toxins found in venoms can also aid in treating other medical conditions and several venom-based drugs are already in use. Here are four species whose venoms are being used to benefit humankind.

开发新的抗蛇毒血清是一场持久战。不过,研究人员发现,毒液中的毒素也可以治病,一些基于毒液的药物已经投入使用。

Snakes

毒蛇

Snake venom is a term that covers a wide array of different venoms. Some kill quickly while others take time.

蛇毒有很多不同种类。有些在很短时间内就会夺人性命,有些则需要一段时间。

Most snakes deliver their poison through fangs that operate in a similar method to a syringe. Once the fang has pierced their victims flesh, the poison is delivered through the tooth and directly into the prey’s bloodstream. The exceptions to this are snakes who spit their venom, like the Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica).

大多数蛇通过毒牙输送毒液,毒牙的功能与注射器相似,一旦刺穿了受害者的皮肉,毒液就会通过牙齿直接进入他们的血液。当然也有例外,比如莫桑比克喷毒眼镜蛇(Naja Mossambica),它是攻击是通过喷吐毒液。

Since there is such a variety in the venoms, the potential medical applications differ from snake to snake. Coronary medical conditions are a field where solutions involving toxins taken from snakes are currently employed.

由于毒液种类繁多,可能的医疗效用因蛇而异。蛇毒素目前已用来治疗冠状动脉。于1981年推出的卡托普利(Captopril,一种血管紧张素转化酶抑制剂,被应用于治疗高血压和某些类型的充血性心力衰竭),就是从美洲矛头蝮蛇(Jararaca pit viper snake)毒素中提取。

“Snake venoms served as templates for some of the top medicines used in high blood pressure, heart failure, and heart attack,” explains Takacs.

塔卡克斯解释说:“一些用于治疗高血压、心力衰竭和心脏病的顶级药物,就是依据蛇毒为模板研制的”。

“The source of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor class of medicines, the Jararaca pit viper snake (Bothrops jararaca), arguably has saved more human lives than any other animal in the history of mankind.”

“血管紧张素转化酶抑制剂(ACEI)类药物的原料来自美洲矛头蝮蛇(Bothrops jararaca),它可谓人类历史上救人性命最多的动物。”

Komodo Dragons

科莫多巨蜥

The venom gland of a Komodo dragon works differently to that of a snake. Instead of the snake’s syringe-like action, Komodo dragons use an oozing method of delivery. Venom is squeezed out of multiple ‘sacks’ between the dragon’s teeth when its jaw clamps down onto its prey. The venom mixes with the prey’s blood and prevents it from clotting. This is why their prey continues to bleed out after the attack. While deadly to prey, the anticoagulante properties of this venom is key to its potential medical uses. These toxins have applications in treating strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms, all of which can stem from blood clots.

科莫多巨蜥(又称科莫多龙、科摩多巨蜥)的毒液与蛇毒不同。科莫多巨蜥没有毒蛇注射器一样的牙齿,而是释放毒液作为武器。当它咬住猎物时,毒液会从牙齿之间的多个"囊袋"中挤出来。毒液与猎物的血液混合,并且阻止血液凝结。这就是为什么猎物被科莫多巨蜥袭击后会血流不止的原因。虽然对猎物来说这是致命的,但这种毒液的抗凝血性有重要的医疗用途,可用于治疗中风,心脏病和肺栓塞。所有这些疾病都源于血栓,而毒素的抗凝血特性能够治疗血栓。

Scorpions

蝎子

Over 1.2 million people are stung by scorpions each year, resulting in around 3250 deaths according to a 2008 study. Aside from its terrifying name, the deathstalker scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) could play an important role in treating cancer. The deathstalker’s potent venom contains a toxin called Chlorotoxin which is being developed to diagnose cancers and in delivery systems for treating tumours.

根据2008年的一项研究,每年有120多万人被蝎子叮咬,其中约3250人因此丧生。以色列金蝎(Leiurus quinquestriatus),虽然名字听起来可怕,却在治疗癌症方面发挥着重要作用。它的强效毒液含有一种叫做氯毒素(Chlorotoxin)的物质,正被研发用于癌症诊断和肿瘤转移的治疗。

Northern Short-Tailed Shrew

北美短尾鼩鼱

Venoms are not normally found in mammals, and while this shrew’s venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human, it will cause pain and swellings.

哺乳动物通常没有毒液。虽然这种北美短尾鼩鼱的毒液不足以致人死亡,但它会引起疼痛和肿胀。

This venomous shrew may have failed to grab the public imagination, but it has seized the interests of the scientific community. The reason: its venom is being explored for use in treating cancer.

这种有毒的北美短尾鼩鼱可能平淡无奇,但却引发了科学界的兴趣。它的毒液正被用于研究治疗癌症。

Takacs says this is possible because some tumor cells express a molecule that’s structure closely resembles the natural target of the toxin.

塔卡克斯说,这是可能的,因为一些肿瘤细胞的分子结构与毒素的天然标靶非常相似。

“By piggy-backing this resemblance, it plausible to turn a toxin into a therapeutic or diagnostic agent for cancer.”

他说:“借助这种相似之处把毒素转变成用于癌症 诊断和治疗药物是可行的。

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