RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) biology lecturer Dr. Ying Jia and his two students, Ivan Lopez and Paulina Kowalski could help advance the research on pharmaceutical benefits of snake venom.

The lecturer who has spent more the ten years focusing on using these molecules for medical applications, used software and programs like UCSF ChimeraX, which visualizes and analyzes molecular structures.

“We’ve always been just, ‘Maybe we could do this and maybe we can do that.’ So, we tried to turn that maybe into a real possibility,” Lopez said. 

Jia’s team recently published a report in the Journal of Venom Research in June identifying fourteen of the most common toxin transcripts.

“We had identified certain proteins in the crude venom that’s found in western diamondbacks,” Lopez said. “There’s a wide variety of just certain characteristics that can happen from each protein.” 

 The team predicted the three-dimensional structure of nine venom toxins, which were tested

“Metalloproteinase is the magic toxic protein that can kill some cancer cell lines,” Jia said. “Many venom molecules could be used for structure-based drug development.”

Jia’s students said, “structure is key.” Researchers can predict how other toxins will interact with each other using simulated toxin structures. The need to use venom directly from a snake is not necessary when using venom protein transcripts and their simulated structures.

“Once we have these venom protein transcripts, we don’t need snake venom anymore, because we can produce venom recombinant proteins by using the tools of biotechnology,” Jia said.