A “Trojan crop” to hide a deadly poison
Since scorpion toxins must be modified to be able to penetrate the blood stream of an infesting insect, it is important to study the toxins and the way they interact with the insect nervous system. Only then would it be possible to modify them in such a way as to reach their target tissues in insects, he says. This is the direction he is working on now.
The agriculture industry already uses mostly pyrethroids, which also penetrate into insects and attack their nervous systems, leading to paralysis and death. Their main drawback, however, is the lack of specificity and the danger these compounds pose to the environment, livestock and humans.
“Why not harness potent natural compounds that venomous animals developed during millions of years of evolution?” asks Prof. Gurevitz. “I am developing the science so we can learn how to use them, and to learn how to produce agents to mimic their effect yet maintain specificity to certain kinds of insects.”