Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cancer Fighting Copperheads

We've already noted the folly of the statement, "The only good snake is a dead snake!" However, while watching a program on the History Channel covering poisons in nature, the staff at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest learned something about our resident Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix).

Although the information has been published in medical journals for almost a decade, the cancer-fighting properties of the Southern Copperheads venom was news to us. A protein in the venom called contortrostatin (CN) causes a disruption in the tumor cell's ability to adhere to and invade neighbor cells while also inhibiting the development of new blood vessels required to sustain the tumor.

"CN belongs to a class of proteins known as disintegrins, called that because they disrupt the function of certain other proteins, called integrins, on the surface of cells. Integrins are involved in the adhesive phenomenon of cells. CN is effective in retarding the spread of tumor cells because it inhibits their adhesion to and invasion of normal cells in the surrounding tissue. "-- American Chemical Society on Science Daily.

Can you spot the Copperhead in the image?

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