• Can Poison Be Medicine? Chromatography Investigates

HPLC, UHPLC

Can Poison Be Medicine? Chromatography Investigates

Apr 07 2015

Using the destructive properties of poisons and toxins for other means is not a new idea. For centuries, humans have used such deadly substances to tip their arrows (inflicting more damage), in dye pigments and even in cosmetics, such as hair removal techniques.

However, as well as such practical uses, poison can also have medicinal benefits. This article, The Multipurpose Poison, discusses at length how arsenic, in particular, has been used to combat maladies such as syphilis, among other applications.

Now, the remarkable recovery of one sufferer of Lyme disease from the United States has prompted a flurry of investigation into the potential benefits of melittin, a toxin found in the venom produced by a bee sting.

An Incredible Tale

At the age of 27, Ellie Lobel was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease, which plagued her for the next fifteen years. The condition confined her to a wheelchair or bed and caused her to lose significant focus and clarity of thought. After trying treatment after treatment – with no positive results – she lost all hope. At age 43, she moved to California, fully intending to let the disease take its course and bid farewell to her life.

However, just three days after arriving in the Golden State, she was attacked by an angry swarm of vicious bees, which stung her multiple times from head to toe. She submitted to the onslaught, envisaging this as her final farewell and refusing to go to hospital for treatment. However, contrary to her expectations, her condition did not deteriorate. She did not die. In fact, she got better. Much better.

Not only was she able to think clearly for the first time in years, but the debilitating effects of the condition on her body also abated. Over the next few years, she conducted her own experiments in inducing bee stings to alleviate the symptoms of the persistent Lyme disease, concluding that the melittin had saved her life.

Scientific Evidence to Support the Story – Thanks to Chromatography

As part of her own investigations into the beneficial effects of melittin, Lobel sent a portion of the venom at periodic intervals to Eva Sapi, who is Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. This has allowed the professor to conduct her own studies into Lyme disease – which she terms as “more expensive than gold”, due to the harmless methods of extracting it that Lobel has developed.

Sapi has found that other antibiotics suppress but do not destroy the harmful Borrelia bacteria, which is responsible for the disease. Ongoing tests are showing that the melittin poison seems to be very effective in fighting it, although as yet, the results are inconclusive.

However, elsewhere, chromatography has proved its merits in analysing deadly venoms. As far back as 10 years ago, Glenn King, of the University of Queensland in Australia, used high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to study Australian funnel-web spider venom. The results left him flabbergasted – and completely convinced of the beneficial potential of such toxins. “I was just blown away,” King explained. “This is an absolute pharmacological goldmine that nobody’s really looked at. Clearly hundreds and hundreds of different peptides.”

One thing’s for certain – poison might actually have a good side, after all. And another thing is certain, too; chromatography can definitely help to discover it.

For more information on this fascinating story, you can read the original article about Ellie Lobel by Christie Wilcox on scroll.in

Image Source: Wasp

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