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Venom of vampire bats could be used to treat a huge variety of medical conditions

In this case movies didn‘t lie to you – vampire bats do exists. Not only they are real, but they may be holding the key to new treatments for a range of serious medical problems. A team of scientists led by The University of Queensland are currently looking into a new class of blood pressure-regulating peptides they have just found in the venom of the common vampire bat.

Vampire bats rarely target humans, but theyr venom could actually have some therapeutic properties. Image credit: Ltshears via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Most bats are not interested in your blood and feed on mosquitos, fruits or, more rarely, fish. In fact, even vampire bats bite people very rarely and typically feed on the blood of livestock, dogs or bigger wild mammals. And there is a slight chance of getting rabies from a bat, but it is very small. Only around 0.5 % of bats are carrying rabies and these are usually unable to fly. However, the venom of vampire bats, according to scientists from this research team, could hold the key to treating wide range of conditions, including hypertension, heart failure, kidney diseases and burns.

The peptides in question are mutated forms of the Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide. Interestingly, human body already uses them to relax blood vessels. In fact, that is also what vampire bats are using them for – to improve the blood flow from their prey. There are synthetic versions of the CGRP, but the one from vampire bats has a benefit of being extremely selective – it doesn’t have any known side effect. That makes this peptide extremely useful in medicine to treat a variety of conditions. Probably one of the unexpected areas where these peptides could be helpful is treating burns. Improving blood flow could help a skin graft to stick or a damaged area to heal quicker.

However, this research is currently dealing with unexpected obstacle. It turns out, the area in Mexico where researchers were studying bats is currently controlled by drug traffickers. This means that scientists have to find a new site, which is going to take some time. Associate Professor Bryan Fry, one of the researchers in the study, said: “Venomous animals around the world are under threat, even more so than most other threatened or endangered species, due to deliberate persecution driven by fear or misunderstanding”.

Venomous animals have somewhat of a bad image in people’s eyes. However, the same substances that make venom so effective could also be therapeutic to humans.

 

Source: University of Queensland


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