Scorpions are definitely my least favorite of all the creepy-crawly-make-me-shudder family of pests. A relative of the spider, scorpions are arthorpods (member of the arachnida class). Venomous, scorpions deliver a sting which is not only painful, but in some cases can even cause death. (I happen to be allergic and fall into the latter category, another reasons for disliking the creatures.) For those of you who live in a region populated by the pests, you know first hand how they can live anywhere and turn up at the most unexpected times and places (your bed, your shoes, the shower, your clothes), just lurking around for some unsuspecting person to come into close enough contact to inflict their damage.
Now, if you’re like me, you may be wondering just what these vicious little creatures are good for - and what they have to do with heart health. As it turns out, the very venom that is so painful, and potentially dangerous to some, just may be able to reduce the number of graft failures in heart bypass surgery.
A heart bypass is a fairly common surgery in which a vein is grafted on to the heart. As with any invasive procedure, the body’s natural injury response kicks in and the body works to grow new cells. In blood vessels, this natural response is referred to as neointimal hyperplasia and it’s the most common reason for graft failure. New cell growth can be helpful if the growth occurs on the outside of the cells. But, when new cell growth turns inward, cell growth on the inside of the vein causes blood flow to be limited and slow and ultimately may result in failure of the graft.
Researchers at the University of Leeds have been looking for ways to suppress neointimal hyperplasia, as a result, decrease the number of graft failures and save lives. As a part of the study, researchers found hope in the venom of the Central American bark scorpion (Centruroides margaritatus). Margatoxin is one of several toxins present in the venom of the bark scorpion. Researchers found that just a few molecules of margotoxin were more effective in preventing neointimal hyperplasia than any other currently used treatment protocol.