Monday, January 28, 2013

What doesn't kill you cures you?

I came across an article some time ago... Okay, by the date of my last post we all know it was a very long time ago.


I came across an article about scorpion venom highlighting brain tumors and aiding surgeons in the operating room. Needless to mention, the whole brain and tumor thing holds close to my heart. (Or, close to my head, that it.)

HERE is the full article for your geeky reading pleasure, but the sum of it is that a protein in scorpion venom "sticks" to the tumorous areas of the brain and the compound glows, illuminating the tumor site.

But why can't the docs just see the tumorous areas, you ask?

Well, come on, it's not like the tumor is dressed in a tutu calling out, "Here I am! Here I am!" while doing the Macarena.Those cancerous areas are hard to see and the inside of your brain is a confusing mass of ugliness. It all looks the wrong side of rotten.

During the actual procedure, the docs have nothing but the contrasting MRI images taken beforehand. Well, that and a hope and sheer cockiness that comes with becoming a physician that they can get it all.

So, how does this happen? Try putting scorpion venom under infrared and you'll most likely get... nothing.

...never mind. Don't try collection scorpion venom. I don't want any of you thinking I'm responsible if you are stupid enough to try getting your hands on some.

The synthetic version mates to a molecule. This compound is injected into your body and after the venom binds to the cancerous cells, the molecule starts to glow like a Raver's glow tube adorned body. Your healthy cells are like wallflowers at a middle school dance to these scorpion proteins.

*Heehee...the healthy cells are currently trying to decide if they're insulted or relieved...*

Okay, back to real land.

This is a fantastic find and they think they might be able to expand the technique to other cancer types like prostate or breast, or, well, you name it.

As with my own diagnosis and surgery, the neuro oncologist was very clear in stating that most likely the actual stem cell generating my tumor was not removed. Because of this, there's an 80-90% chance my little brain buddy will return.

No biggie for me, as my tumor type is a low-grade, slow-growing cancer and easily removed again. (I work in a hospital with tons of clinical experts to inquire to, and you know, knowledge is power and all that.)

But wouldn't it be awesome if I got to use one of the tech finds I've posted on this blog someday?

This might actually be possible, since human trials are beginning later this year. Who knows, in a decade or so I could be heading back to UCSF for surgery again and injected with scorpion venom. (Is it just me or does this almost sounds like the start of a Marvel comic.)


  1. I sure hope it fools everyone and they catch it ALL, including the generating stem cell.
    Very interesting blog.

  2. I hadn't heard about this. Very cool. And yet another reason we humans shouldn't be too quick to kill species we deem "unwanted."