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article imageDeadly box jellyfish antidote discovered

By Tim Sandle     May 1, 2019 in Science
Sydney - By deploying the gene editing technology CRISPR, Australian scientists specializing in pain research have found the antidote to deadly box jellyfish toxin.
Researchers, from the University of Sydney, when investigating how pain works have uncovered an antidote to the deadly sting delivered by the Australian box jellyfish, said to be most venomous creature on Earth.. One sting from the jellyfish to a human triggers necrosis of the skin, terrible pain and, with high doses of the toxin, cardiac arrest and death.
To help to address treatment when a sting occurs, the scientists have uncovered the antidote to the venomous sting. This was found using CRISPR genome editing techniques. In trials the antidote has been shown to be effective in counteracting the venom and with blocking symptoms within 15 minutes following contact.
CRISPR (Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats), as Digital Journal has discussed (see: "Is CRISPR technology set to change biological science?”), is a type of biological cut-and-paste technology. The bio-technique allows scientists to detect a gene defect within living cells. Researchers can then use molecular “scissors” to make genetic changes. These changes include deleting the gene; repairing it; or completely replacing it.
READ MORE: Gene editing CRISPR treats lethal lung diseases before birth
With the new research, lead scientist Professor Greg Neely states: "We were looking at how the venom works, to try to better understand how it causes pain. Using new CRISPR genome editing techniques we could quickly identify how this venom kills human cells. Luckily, there was already a drug that could act on the pathway the venom uses to kill cells, and when we tried this drug as a venom antidote on mice, we found it could block the tissue scarring and pain related to jellyfish stings...It is super exciting."
Box Jellyfish
Box Jellyfish
Alexandra Roberts on Flickr
Chironex fleckeri, which is commonly known as the sea wasp, is a species of highly venomous box jellyfish located in coastal waters from northern Australia. C. fleckeri has tentacles up to 3 meters (10 feet) long covered with millions of cnidocytes which, on contact, release microscopic darts delivering an extremely powerful venom.
For the research, the science team used millions of human cells and removed a different human gene in each one. After this they added the box jellyfish venom and examined for cells that survived.
From this process of whole genome screening, using CRISPR technology, the scientists pinpointed human factors that are necessary for the venom to work. The idea going forwards is to turn the antidote into a spray or a cream, to be used for medical emergencies.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. The research paper is titled "Molecular dissection of box jellyfish venom cytotoxicity highlights an effective venom antidote."
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