New research carried out at the Department of Biosciences at Swansea University has found that the venom of a charismatic group of lizards, including the Komodo dragon, has evolved to be highly variable between species, highly effective, and could lead to the development of drugs to treat blood-related disorders in humans.
The research has been carried out with Swansea University and institutions in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Macau, and the USA and published in a new paper entitled: ‘Enter the Dragon: The Dynamic and Multifunctional Evolution of Anguimorpha Lizard Venoms’.
Dr Kevin Arbuckle, a Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology is part of the research at Swansea University. He said:
“What we have discovered is that although the venom composition in monitor lizards possesses common components, it is also highly variable between species.
“There is actually current controversy as to whether monitor lizards are in fact venomous. This paper shows that not only are these lizards venomous but that the venom is highly effective as a defence and attack mechanism and acts to destroy the blood coagulation system and cause painful muscular cramps, which could be beneficial both in defence and for subduing prey.
“The variability means there are lots of interesting toxins that could potentially be repurposed for medical drugs in the future. For instance, toxins that impact blood coagulation could lead to the development of drugs to treat blood-related disorders such as abnormal clotting that leads to thrombosis or strokes. Understanding the venom of these animals may therefore benefit humans in the long-term.”