Scorpion venom is helping doctors make tumors glow. How? With something called Tumor Paint, a drug created from the venom of the Israeli deathstalker scorpion. (Just ignore that scary name, this stuff can be a lifesaver.)
At TEDxSeattle, Dr. Jim Olson explains how he and his team at Seattle Children’s Hospital developed the altered scorpion venom. It acts as a “targeting agent,” says Olson, going after cancer cells like the venom targets the brain of its prey. Once attached to these cells, the drug uses fluorescent molecules to “paint” the tumor’s cells and give surgeons a glowing map of where to operate (as seen in the second picture above).
This paint is about 100,000 times more sensitive than the MRI scans often used to map out tumors, says Olson, and has great potential for helping surgeons remove an entire tumor during just one surgery.
(Scorpion photo: Matt Reinbold)