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The following collection of Web sites explores the properties and novel medical uses of snake venom. The first Web site (1), a ThinkQuest prizewinner, is one part of a well-crafted and informative guide to the earth's poisonous plants and animals. This particular Web page offers a good introduction to snake venom, including a table detailing the effect and concentration of the different proteins found in venom that can kill or paralyze prey. The next Web site comes from The Reptile House, a commercial breeder and supplier of reptiles and amphibians, and presents photos and facts about the ten deadliest snakes on the planet (2). A straightforward description of the three types of venomous snakes (opisthoglyphs, proteroglyphs, and solenoglyphs) and a short overview of the properties of venom is available from www.venomous.com, a privately hosted Web site (3). The next Web site comes from the online companion to the PBS Nature documentary: The Serpent's Tooth (4). The site contains an engaging article about the intrepid Bill Haast, director of the Miami Serpentarium, who "has been bitten by venomous snakes more than 160 times -- and lived to tell the tale." Howard Reinert, another snake biologist and (surprise!) snakebite victim, relates his experiences with a "dry" bite and the real thing in the next Web site from AnimalPlanet.com (5). The site also includes audio segments of experts discussing the physiological effects of snake venom and what to do if bitten by a rattlesnake. Is rattlesnake venom evolving? Research suggests that North American rattlesnake venom has become increasingly potent -- the focus of an interesting article from the American Museum of Natural History (6). The article also provides a detailed introduction to rattlesnakes and their deadly venom. Scientists around the world have been exploring the possible medicinal uses of venom, and not just for antivenin. The last two Web sites relate just some of the work being done in this area. The BBC news article recounts efforts to determine whether certain snake venoms contain chemicals that could prevent heart attacks and strokes (7). Likewise, scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Center (8) have found a protein in snake venom that could offer a way to explore how nicotine and other drugs turn on the "pleasure centers" of the brain.
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