Deathstalker scorpions produce a venom known as chlorotoxin. Scientists have observed chlorotoxin binds with glioma cells, which are tumors found in the brain and spine. Results of a study published in ACS Nano, a monthly journal, showed that chlorotoxin could help deliver gene therapy treatments to brain tumors. In their study titled “Chlorotoxin Labeled Magnetic Nanovectors for Targeted Gene Delivery to Glioma,” 11 University of Washington researchers described using a combination of chlorotoxin and iron oxide nanoparticles.
Their results showed by using venom-based nanoparticles, they could induce gene expression in almost twice as many glioma cells as nanoparticles without the scorpion venom. In their conclusion they state, “These results could provide insight into the design of more effective gene delivery vehicles for improved treatment outcome of gene therapy for glioma and other deadly cancers.”
They used fluorescence microscopy on tumor sections to observe elevated gene therapy expression at the cellular level. Chlorotoxin is thought to be a promising delivery agent in gene therapy for the majority of brain cancer types because it is internalized by glioma cells.
The research study states in the introduction that when chlorotoxin is attached to iron oxide nanoparticles and coated with chitosan and polyethylene glycol, the new nanoparticles can pass through the blood-brain barriers. Researchers from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Radiology Department of Neurological Surgery, at the University of Washington participated in the research.
A similar study last year by one of the same researchers found chlorotoxin could have a great potential for arresting the spread of brain cancer cells. The use of chlorotoxin is also being explored for prostate, colorectal, and skin cancers.
Deathstalker scorpions are also called the Palestine yellow scorpion, or the Israeli desert scorpion. They live in a range from the Middle East to North Africa.
Image Credit: Ester Inbar