It sounds like witch doctor medicine, but an injection of bee venom can improve brain function.
It sounds like witch doctor medicine, but an injection of bee venom can improve brain function, according to a new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
A team of scientists from the Universities of Liege in Belgium and Bristol in the United Kingdom extracted a peptide toxin from the venom called apamin. Apamin is a neurotoxin that blocks certain central nervous system channels.
Apamin can cause hyperexcitability, resulting in convulsions and respiratory paralysis, according to the National Library of Medicine. But hyperexcitable nerves in the brain also lead to improved learning and memory.
Injections of apamin also have been shown to improve the symptoms of myotonic muscular dystrophy, such as muscle weakness, convulsions and lack of coordination, reports ScienceDaily.
The use of peptide toxins like apamin isn't new; scientists have known for a while that certain insect venoms have the potential to treat diseases like MD.
But the mechanisms of exactly how the toxins worked has been poorly understood -- until now.
The new study pinpoints precisely where the apamin binds to particular nerve channels in the brain, and the researchers hope new drugs can be developed that mimic apamin's effects.
"Drug design depends on knowing the target," Neil Marrion, a professor in the University of Bristol's Physiology and Pharmacology department, told ScienceDaily. "Our findings have provided a new approach to designing a therapeutic agent that could help with the treatment of a number of conditions."

Source: Discovery News
Image credit: Dalantech