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Scientists unravel Snake venom mystery

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Schizophrenia, epilepsy and chronic pain research receives a boost as the mystery behind the Costa Rican coral snake’s capability to induce seizures in its victims is deciphered by researchers.

The mechanism in the snake’s venom is consisted of a pair of proteins called micrurotoxins (MmTX) which bind to the pores of the nerve cells located in the spinal cord and brain, referred to as GABA(A) receptors.

The result is seizures which can be deadly, said a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

“Once they bind to the receptors, they don’t let go,” AFP quoted Frank Bosmans, assistant professor of physiology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as saying.

“What we found are the first known animal toxins, and by far the most potent compounds, to target GABA(A) receptors,” he added.

The research found that MmTX bound to GABA(A) receptors more strongly than any other known compound.

After binding, the receptor’s pores cannot close, leaving the nerve cell unable to reset which causes it to misfire.

Researcher hope that the results of their discovery will boost studies into chronic pain, epilepsy and, schizophrenia, which all result from GABA(A) receptor errors.

“Anti-anxiety medications like diazepam and alprazolam bind to GABA(A) receptors too, but they cause relaxation instead of seizures because they bind much more loosely,” added Bosmans.


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