Venoms are biological cocktails used for defense and predation. Our research looks at how the chemistry of protein toxins in recluse spider venoms causes skin lesions and life-threatening reactions in humans, as well as lethal effects on insect prey. In some cases, these venom toxins originated as harmless proteins but anciently mutated and ultimately utilized as toxins by widely different organisms such as bacteria and spiders. Perhaps surprisingly, venoms are not just instruments of destruction, but have medicinal uses. Recently, venom molecules from animals like tarantulas and vipers have been used for human ailments ranging from pain to problems of the circulatory system. These are molecules of death, but also of life!
Presenter: Matt Cordes, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona