Scorpions are fascinating creatures which became residents of the planet well before human beings dwelled on Earth. Scorpions are always considered as a figure of fear, causing notable pain or mortality throughout the world. Their venoms are cocktails of bioactive molecules, called toxins, which are responsible for their toxicity. Fortunately, medical researchers have turned the life-threatening toxins into life-saving therapeutics. From Song Dynasty in ancient China, scorpions and their venoms have been applied in traditional medicine for treating neurological disorders, such as pain, stroke, and epilepsy. Neurotoxins purified from Chinese scorpion Buthus Martensii Karsch (BmK) are considered as the main active ingredients, which act on membrane ion channels. Long-chain toxins of BmK, composed of 58–76 amino acids, could specifically recognize voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs). Short-chain BmK toxins, containing 28–40 amino acids, are found to modulate the potassium or chloride channels. These components draw attention as useful scaffolds for drug-design in order to tackle the emerging global medical threats. In this chapter, we aim to summarize the most promising candidates that have been isolated from BmK venoms for drug development.
Part of the book: Medical Toxicology
The Hodgkin-Huxley model, at its 66th anniversary, remains a footing stone of neuroscience, which describes how the action potential (AP) is generated. As the core player of AP initiation, voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) are always considered to be required for electrogenesis in excitable cells. Cells which are not traditionally been considered to be excitable, including glial cells, also express VGSCs in physiological as well as pathological conditions. The dysfunction of glial VGSCs is seemingly not related to abnormal excitation of neurons, but of importance in the astrogliosis and M1 polarization of microglia, which could induce refractory neuroinflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Therefore, in this chapter, we aim to describe the physiological and pathological roles of VGSCs contributing to the activity of glial cells and discuss whether VGSC subtypes could be used as a novel drug target, with an eye toward therapeutic implications for neuroinflammatory diseases.
Part of the book: Neuroimaging