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BioPark Rattlesnakes Used In Ground-Breaking Cancer Research

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First Human Clinical Trials with Venom Begin in France

BioPark Rattlesnakes Used In Ground-Breaking Cancer Research

Doug Hotle, Curator of Reptiles at the ABQ BioPark, extracts venom from an eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo courtesy of Doug Hotle.

Four western diamondback rattlesnakes from the Albuquerque BioPark will soon be part of the first clinical trials for venom as a cancer treatment. The snakes traveled on November 10, 2011 to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, one of the four premier venom laboratories in the United States. The snakes' venom will be extracted and sent to Paris, France where the clinical studies are underway.

Snake venom contains hundreds of proteins which impact the human body in various ways. When combined, the proteins can be devastating. In isolation, these proteins can be used to treat health issues from strokes and heart attacks to Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

"Copperhead venom is probably going to be our saving grace for breast cancer. It puts the cancer cells in suspended animation," said Doug Hotle, a venom expert and Curator of Reptiles at the ABQ BioPark. "The lab tests using rattlesnake venom to treat cancer have also been extremely successful. We know that there are a lot of great things on the horizon."

Scientists at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo will extract the rattlesnake venom using a non-harmful method which allows the snakes to bite and excrete the venom naturally. "Anyone in the snake venom world began as a snake enthusiast," said Hotle. "The last thing they'd want to do is to see the snakes hurt."

From there, the venom will travel to Paris, France, where Celtic Biotech, an Irish pharmaceutical company, is conducting the first clinical trials of rattlesnake venom as a cancer treatment in humans.

"We're excited to be involved in such groundbreaking research, especially on a health issue which has impacted so many people," said Mayor Richard Berry. "It is a great credit to the City of Albuquerque, our Zoo, and to Curator Doug Hotle."

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