September 19, 2011

Mast Cells Reduce Toxicity Of Gila Monster And Scorpion Venom

Gila monsters are large venomous lizards. Although envenomation by the Gila monster is not often fatal to adult humans, it results in intense pain, swelling, weakness, and nausea. A team of researchers, led by Stephen Galli, at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, has now uncovered a natural mechanism by which mice reduce the toxicity, and thereby the morbidity and mortality, of Gila monster venom – immune cells known as mast cells release the protein MCPT4, which degrades the Gila monster venom helodermin. This mechanism also acted to reduce the toxicity of venom from 2 species of scorpions. These data provide insight into the benefits of mast cells, which have long been viewed as contributors to disease, in particular anaphylaxis and allergic diseases.


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