Is Scorpion Venom the New Cure for Detecting Brain Tumors?


The 21st century is full with years of new research and techniques to find cures for problems that older technology just couldn’t get its head around. From scientists injecting strains of hazardous diseases into the American public, to testing thousands of new drugs on rats, it seems like with our modern day technology most of our problems could be solved. Cancer is still the leading disease which scientists are struggling to find an exact cure for.

Recently, however, Dr. Jim Olson at the Seattle Children’s Hospital has developed a new technology called “tumor paint”, which he hopes will bring him a step closer to detecting brain tumors before they become fatal. This “tumor paint”, researchers say, utilizes scorpion venom to help doctors find dangerous brain cancer cells, so the cells can hopefully be removed before they spread farther. This new technique is created by using a certain protein derived from the paralyzing venom of the Israeli Deathstalker Scorpion. After scientists re-engineered the protein, the venom is able to bind to cancer cells and be joined with a fluorescent molecule which acts as a flashlight to light up the cells.

After telling Lexi Lopez about this story, I wondered what her opinion would be on whether or not she would trust this technique on her own family. She responded with, “ If this technique was tested and had no harmful side effects, then I think I would use it. If scientists have found a way to make cancer cells glow in the body before they become too dangerous to remove, then why would I say no to it? The venom could prevent someone from dying, and cancer has already taken so many lives already I think at this point we need to find a way cure it”.

After re-developing his lab research to focus merely on studying proteins derived from nature, Olson is calling this project the “Project Violet Lab”. In some cases, Olson found that the paint was able to identify extremely small amounts of cancer cells which would have been impossible to find otherwise.

I asked a good family friend who is studying to become a nurse, Jessica Carlson,  if she thought that this project was worth supporting to research deeper into the use of the venom for treatments of finding cancerous cells in the body. “Every day I hear or learn about how cancer has taken someone’s life or how scientists still cannot develop that one cure that can beat the disease. If this simple venom can detect the smallest of cancerous cells, than why not keep researching it and find out how much more the venom can do?”.

For now, Olson will continue on with his research in developing new proteins from animals which may contribute to saving many lives affected by this disease. Until then, people are able to go to the Project Violet website and “adopt” a molecule for $100. By adopting a molecule, someone is able to select the type of cell and protein they would like joined, creating a new molecule to be studied. The $100 goes to the creation of that molecule which scientists will study to see if it can be used in medical treatments.image