NIH Record Story: 'Ghoulish' Potion Shows Nervous System Function
Past Stetten Lectures
10/23/1996 8:00 AM
10/23/1996 8:00 AM
At a National Institutes of Health lecture the week before Halloween, a researcher will describe the deadly effects of a brew containing the functional equivalent of cobra toxin, tetrodotoxin (puffer fish poison), and botulinum toxin. He'll also describe how this potent venom, found in marine snails, helps to reveal molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system function.
Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera, Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, will discuss his work and display a short video of a cone snail attacking and devouring a fish at the DeWitt Stetten Jr. Lecture on Wednesday, October 23.
The lecture, entitled "Using Deadly Cone Snails to Learn Drug Design and Probe Nervous Systems," will start at 3:00 p.m. in the Masur Auditorium of the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center (Building 10) on the NIH campus.
Dr. Olivera studies the hundreds of neurotoxins produced by venomous cone snails. His research has already led to the development of a potent painkiller, now in clinical trials, that appears to vanquish pain that is unresponsive even to near-lethal doses of morphine. The toxins, which are highly specific for certain ion channels, are also widely used as labeling tools in neuroscience research.
Knowledge provided by the work may also shed light on conditions--such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and epilepsy--that involve abnormal function of receptors and ion channels in the nervous system.
The Stetten Lecture, which is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, honors Dr. DeWitt Stetten Jr., who directed the Institute from 1970 to 1974. Dr. Stetten had a strong commitment to basic research, especially in the areas of genetics, cellular and molecular biology, and chemistry. The lecture series is in its 15th year.
NIGMS is regarded as the "basic science institute" of NIH because it focuses its grant support on fundamental, non-disease-targeted investigations in the biomedical sciences. Such basic research contributes new information and concepts that can improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human disease. NIGMS' programs encompass the disciplines of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, and minority biomedical research and training. The Institute has supported Dr. Olivera's work since 1979.
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