Scientists Are Now “Milking” Box Jellyfish For Medical Treatment

Queensland venomologist Associate Professor, Bryan Fry has developed a new technique for ‘milking’ the venom of a creature which is one of the world’s deadliest stings: the box jellyfish, for the development of lifesaving drugs.

Scientists Are Now "Milking" Box Jellyfish For Medical TreatmentAssociate Professor Fry said that box jellyfish venom extraction was much more challenging than in snakes and spiders, and research into this type of venom was lagging.

Jellyfish and other cnidarians are the oldest living venomous creatures, but research has been hampered by a lack of readily obtainable venom harvested in a reproducible manner,” he said.

Scientists Are Now "Milking" Box Jellyfish For Medical Treatment

The new method uses a counter intuitive substance to encourage the sea creature to secrete its venom — ethanol. The ethanol prompts the venom cells, called nematocysts, in the tentacles to fire and squirt out venom. This fresh venom can be collected immediately and is mostly uncontaminated. 

The use of ethanol is interesting because it actually exacerbates a jellyfish sting if splashed onto the damaged skin.

It is very much a case of doing something that would be the wrong thing from a first-aid perspective, which ironically turns out to be an extremely simple field technique to obtain high-quality venom,” said Fry.

This technique is superior to previous jellyfish milking methods. Some took up to two weeks to collect venom while others only gave a small yield of pure venom. The risk of the venom becoming contaminated with jellyfish mucus was incredibly likely as well. 

Scientists Are Now "Milking" Box Jellyfish For Medical Treatment

Our method is a practical one that can be used in the field with high efficiency, so it removes a major bottleneck from jellyfish venom research,” said Fry.

Of course, some challenges remain. Jellyfish aren’t happy living in captivity, which means researchers must trek through the Australian wilderness – if not through the cyclone-prone areas then through crocodile territory – to find one of the deadliest sea creatures with a sting so painful that causes humans to go into shock.


via The University Of Queensland Australia

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