When a venomous frog defends itself against a predator, the results probably aren’t good for the attacker. If the predator doesn’t die, it may become paralyzed or suffer some other unfortunate fate. However, did you know that the very venom that disarms and destroys predators has its benefits for humans? Scientists are manipulating the venoms of various rain forest frogs in order to use them to make new medicines. The molecules found in the venom, also known as peptides, are what we humans find so valuable.
A tree frog from Australia releases venom with a peptide that embeds itself within the membrane of bacteria and then bursts the bacteria cell. This peptide may be particularly useful in replacing conventional antibiotics in conditions that have become resistant to them. Bacteria cannot develop a resistance to this cell-bursting peptide.
The giant Mexican leaf frog’s venom has been found to contain two peptides of value to humans. One of the peptides, when injected in very low doses, has been found to reduce blood pressure by 50%. The other stops blood from clotting, an ability that may prove useful in new treatments for heart disease and deep vein thrombosis, a condition that can result in lethal blood clots.
Yet another venomous frog with peptides useful to humans is the North American pond frog. This frog releases peptides that are similar to molecules in the human body that are known to stimulate or inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors. Thus, it could lead to new treatments for cancer. The same peptide may also be used to fight leukemia and reduce the damage done to bone marrow from chemotherapy treatment.