Asthma treatment could get a boost from toadlike fish

Asthma treatment could get a boost from toadlike fish

Not to be impolite, but the toadfish is kind of ugly. Its name, after all, is derived from its resemblance to a toad. And as faces go, having a toadish countenance isn’t high on the list of things singles brag about on their online dating profile.

But looks aren’t everything.

Brazilian scientists say a species of venomous toadfish, Thalassophryne nattereri [tal-ASS-a-fry nat-ah-EAR-e], houses a molecule that has been found to reduce lung inflammation. That makes it a good candidate as a potential ingredient in a drug that might better treat asthma.

This previously undiscovered toadfish molecule is a string of amino acids that is found in the fish venom itself. Amino acids form proteins, which are workhorses in the human body carrying out all sorts of complex tasks.

While the molecule has been found to reduce asthma inflammation in animal studies, researchers believe it might be useful for other medical conditions. Indeed, earlier research found that the same molecule holds promise in the treatment of sclerosis.

This species’ venom is an effective defense mechanism, causing intense pain, tissue necrosis and swelling in the unlucky victim.

The Brazilians say they will file a patent on the molecule and hope to eventually partner with a pharmaceutical company to work toward the development of potentially revolutionary medications.

Asthma, the researchers say, is the most common chronic lung disease, with about 26 million Americans having the condition. That number includes nearly 5 million children.

The toadfish might not the belle of the ball. But beauty, as they say, is only skin deep.

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