Science 2 min read

Scientists use CRISPR to Create Antidote for Box Jellyfish Venom

Ekkapan Poddamrong /

Ekkapan Poddamrong /

Box jellyfish venom is one of the deadliest animal-produced substances here on Earth. It is so potent that it can cause indescribable pain and cardiac arrest in humans stung by the jellyfish.

This kind of jellyfish commonly patrols the warm coastal waters of Northern Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. They can measure up to 3 meters long, and each of their body’s four bottom corners contains around 15 long tentacles.

Of the many species of box jellyfish, the Chironex fleckeri is the deadliest to both humans and other marine animals. Its sting can send a person into cardiac arrest or death in just five minutes.

For years, scientists have tried to understand how the Chironex fleckeri box jellyfish’s venom works. All efforts have been unsuccessful until recently when a team of Australian researchers used CRISPR gene-editing technology to dissect and study box jellyfish.

The Antidote for the Box Jellyfish Venom

In their research published in the journal Nature Communications, the Australian researchers described how they used CRISPR tech to create an antidote for the dreaded box jellyfish venom.

According to their paper, the team first tested the venom in lab-grown human cells. They used millions of cells and removed different human genes in each using gene-editing before applying the poisonous substance.

The test allowed the researchers to determine which cells get killed and which ones will survive the onslaught of the venom. During the process, they were able to identify the genes needed to keep the cells alive.

Raymon Lau, the study’s lead author, said:

“It’s the first molecular dissection of how this type of venom works, and possibly how any venom works.”

According to the team’s research, there were four specific genes from the cholesterol regulation pathway that they found significant to the survival process of the cells. Fortunately, there are already existing drugs for these pathways.

Lau and his team tested these drugs on the gene-edited human cells. Surprisingly, the medications worked and were able to block the venom even after 15 minutes of the toxins’ delivery. The team reported that they would be working to push the antidote as a potential treatment for human use.

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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