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Snake Venom Cancer Cure?

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Four rattlesnakes from the Albuquerque BioPark will play a role in the fight against cancer.

Doug Hotle, curator of reptiles for the Biological Park, said the local snakes are headed to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, one of the premier venom laboratories in the United States.

The snakes’ venom, after extraction there, will be sent to Paris, where a pharmaceutical company “is conducting the first clinical trials of rattlesnake venom as a cancer treatment in humans,” the BioPark said in a news release.

The snakes involved are four Western diamondbacks from the outskirts of Albuquerque. They ended up at the BioPark after they turned out to be a “nuisance” on one city property or another, Hotle said.

They’re 3 1/2 to 5 feet long.

In an interview, Hotle said he hopes the role of venom in medicine helps reshape the way people think about snakes.

“There are so many amazing things we’re finding from snake venom,” he said.

The proteins in snake venom are devastating when combined, Hotle said. But when isolated, some can help lower blood pressure or trigger other health benefits, he said.

“It’s astounding to get any drug to human trials,” Hotle said. Venom “seems to be very, very effective at killing these cancer cells in their tracks.”

Albuquerque has a great collection of venomous snakes at the BioPark and strong ties to laboratories outside the state, Hotle said.

The four snakes will live out the rest of their days in Kentucky, Hotle said. The venom will be extracted “humanely” when the snakes bite into something, he said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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