#12 – Neurotoxin | Project Chemistree
There’s a snake on the Chemistree.
No, really – there’s a snake on the tree. Why? Good question.
Julian Harrison, a PhD student with the UOW School of Chemistry, is behind the plastic reptile on one of the bottom branches. He’s studying the particular type of neurotoxin used by Australian snakes. He says the structure of the molecule is unique to our corner of the world. Tiger snakes, death adders (they sound fluffy) and taipans all have a structure made up of three components. Broken down, each of these three molecules are pretty harmless but put them all together and they can do some serious damage.
Australia is home to the most venomous snakes on the planet. Julian says it’s no coincidence that they make this unusual neurotoxin only found here. Even stranger, eastern brown snake’s toxin is made up of six different structures.
The thing is, scientists are only really just finding out the structures of these molecules. Julian’s at the forefront of the research, using special instruments and machines to map the molecules. He’s hoping that knowledge will one day allow us to make even better anti-venoms.
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