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Venom hunters

Scientists probe toxins, revealing the healing powers of biochemical weapons

2:17pm, July 31, 2009

When the monitor lizard chomped into Bryan Fry, it did more than turn his hand into a bloody mess. Besides ripping skin and severing tendons, the lizard delivered noxious venom into Fry’s body, injecting molecules that quickly thinned his blood and dilated his vessels.

As the tiny toxic assassins dispersed throughout his circulatory system, they hit their targets with speed and precision, ultimately causing more blood to gush from Fry’s wound. Over millions of years, evolution has meticulously shaped these toxins into powerful weapons, and Fry was feeling the devastating consequences firsthand.

“I’ve never seen arterial bleeding before, and I really don’t want to ever see it again. Especially coming out of my own arm,” says Fry, a venom researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

To unlock the molecular secrets of venom, Fry and other researchers have pioneered a burgeoning field called venomics. With cutting-e

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