Zinc to counter jellyfish venom

Years ago, Angel Yanagihara had a painful encounter with Hawaiian box jellyfish while swimming in Waikiki. So began a quest to identify the toxins in the creature’s venom and to develop a possible remedy.

Yanagihara, a biochemist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and colleagues began testing jellyfish venom on human blood and mice. Now, in the journal PLoS One, they report on their findings, not just in Hawaiian jellyfish but also in a larger and potentially deadlier species from Australia.

The Australian box jellyfish is one of the world’s most venomous animals. It has a body the size of a basketball with up to 60 tentacles, which can each grow to 10 feet. Box jellyfish are also found off Indonesia and Thailand.

“Biochemically, the venoms are similar,” Yanagihara said. “Colleagues sent me frozen tentacles.” The scientists discovered that the venom creates pores in human red blood cells. That causes them to leak large amounts of potassium.

But in mouse and human blood, the venom’s effects appeared to be blocked by zinc, the scientists report. So Yanagihara says she is advising a company that is seeking to develop antidotes using the compound, zinc gluconate. She has developed three treatments: a topical ointment for minor cases, an IV therapy for life-threatening cases and a prophylactic or preventive treatment.

“We’ve already done the human pilot studies on the topical treatment,” she said.                                                                                                                               Sindya N Bhanoo

Comets towatch

In January, you will be able to watch C/2012 K5 LINEAR and PANSTARRS, two periodic comets. Both can be seen with the aid of small telescopes or binoculars. Comet C/2012 K5 LINEAR made an appearance in ‘Coma Venatici’ constellation at a magnitude of 8 in December. This month, it can be seen at magnitude 5 with unaided eyes. The acronym, LINEAR, expands to Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research. Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research.

Comet C/2012 K5 was discovered by LINEAR. The goal of LINEAR is to demonstrate the application of technology originally developed for the surveillance of earth-orbiting satellites to the problem of detecting and cataloging near-earth asteroids—also referred to as near-earth objects (NEOs)—that threaten the earth. |

If you own a small telescope or a good pair of binoculars, you have a chance to see comet C/2012 K5 LINEAR. The other comet which is clearly visible from all parts of India is PANSTARRS. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) is an array of astronomical cameras and telescopes and computing facility that is surveying the sky on a continual basis, including accurate astrometry and photometry of detected objects.
Mohan Krishna S A

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