One Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom
July 10, 2014 10:00 AM   Subscribe

He needs scorpion stings to live.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:07 AM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Atom Eyes' House reference.
posted by lalochezia at 10:10 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ancient practitioners of medicine were well aware that scorpion venom could heal as well as harm. In imperial China, for example, the cloudy fluid was used to treat ailments ranging from mumps to tetanus. And in certain rural corners of India, whole scorpions were dipped in mustard oil and then rubbed on arthritic joints. Scorpion venom has more recently become an object of fascination for developers of pesticides, who dream of protecting crops using the neuro­toxins that scorpions employ against locusts and beetles.

The article rather fails to explain whether any of these efforts and desires saw fruit.

Me, I have been administering scorpion venom to people for years, and I had no idea it could be curative. Huh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:11 AM on July 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

The overall approach doesn't sound much different than the fluorescent labeling techniques currently used. Phalloidin is a really commonly-used label that like the chlorotoxin isn't fluorescent on its own but with a label can beautifully show cell cytoskeletons. Oh, and it's also a toxin from Death Cap Mushrooms; if it binds to *your* cellular cytoskeleton, it's bad news.

The carrier is pretty interesting, though. It's damn hard to find stuff that will go to the brain, so looking at neurotoxins is a good approach, though obviously a tightrope to walk in terms of dosing.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always thought the Scorpions were more likely to cause ear cancer rather than cure it...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:51 AM on July 10, 2014

In what I can think of only as a very odd coincidence, scorpions themselves exhibit a strong blue fluorescence, and I've been wondering what good it might do them for years (the linked article describes a fairly recent attempt to explain it).

So I began the article thinking 'of course!-- why didn't I think in terms of the venom?'-- but (of course) the fluorescence moiety had to be tacked onto the venom toxin.
posted by jamjam at 11:09 AM on July 10, 2014

Using mad science scorpion venom to try to cure cancer sounds like a great way to become a Spider-man villain.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:06 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

That is straight outta Hogwarts.
posted by GrammarMoses at 1:08 PM on July 10, 2014

Didn't this appear on an episode of House?
posted by kathrynm at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey! I saw this on an episode of Pain, Pus, and Poison, a BBC series that originally aired last year but has finally come to this side of the pond. Really cutting edge cool stuff.

NB: the Pus episode is beyond gross and I only made it twenty minutes in before noping right outta there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2014

It might have been on House, but it was definitely a TED talk two years ago.

Why is this guy getting all the buzz now and what happened to the USCD team since?
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2014

I won't buy into this until I know for sure Dr. Oz hasn't recommended it.
posted by bicyclefish at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2014

My ex takes a medication made from scorpion venom to treat something growing in his brain (if I remembered, I'd say). A real doctor prescribed this med, not some quack. So, yeah, it's a thing.
posted by _paegan_ at 4:27 PM on July 10, 2014

I've been waiting to hear more about this since the TED talk! It's not just that the tumor's boundaries are fuzzy, but in many brain tumors the tumor tissue looks exactly like healthy brain tissue to the surgeon's eye. When my girlfriend found out she had a mixed Astrocytoma/Oligodendroglioma almost three years ago, and was rushed in for her surgery, we found out that the (very capable!) surgeon missed fully half of the tumor when we had the follow-up MRI.

The second surgeon, the extremely amazing and talented and wonderful Dr. Michele Aizenberg at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (did I mention she was extremely amazing and talented and wonderful? I can not praise her enough.), got the rest of the tumor, but still stresses that she just can't know how much was left behind so it was MRIs every three months after the surgery (now stretched out to every six months because, thankfully, there has been zero sign of growth). A surgeon can have all the incredible, advanced scanning and mapping technology in the world, but once they're in there doing their work, it comes down to their eyes and hands. I really hope that this pans out, because it would be a huge deal and help a lot of people.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

jason, so happy for you & your lady!

jamjam, and the aptly named tchemgrrl, thanks for those insights. Reminds me of the optical principle that a good absorber is a good reflector... and, oh yeah, isn't there a saying about "the poison being the medicine" (but without the asinine homeopathic overtones).
posted by IAmBroom at 5:08 PM on July 10, 2014

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