A Shrew Spit Solution

Shrew spit may help in the screening of prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers. I don’t understand this one, so here it is from the CBC:

The northern short-tailed shrew, a mouse-like mammal with a long snout, is one of the world’s few venomous mammal species. With one bite, its saliva can paralyze prey.

Biochemist Jack Stewart of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., set out to find out how.

Stewart spent several years luring the animals with pepperoni and trapping dozens of shrews in his rural backyard before he eventually identified the chemical in shrew saliva that causes paralysis. Researchers then purified and synthesized it.

At first, Stewart thought the chemical — called soricidin — might be a potential painkiller, because it blocked nerve transmission. When he tested it on a random cell culture that happened to be ovarian cancer cells, however, he found the cells died — which was initially a source of annoyance to him.

“Then a light bulb came on,” Stewart recalled. “Oh, they died,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a good thing in cancer.”

Read more at the CBC.

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