About this Research Topic
Toxins are intrinsic traits used by venomous animals for the purpose of subjugating prey. Toxins can impede competitors, immobilize and digest prey and have also evolved to defend animals from predators, whilst minimizing the risk to themselves in any struggle. To possess all these biological functions, toxins need to be able to modify several physiological systems through interacting with specific molecular targets, including the immune system. It is well-documented in the literature that toxins and venoms are able to activate immune cells (e.g. macrophages, neutrophils, and T cells), inflammatory mediators (e.g. cytokines, kinins, eicosanoids, reactive oxygen species, and nitric oxide) and the complement system. Although most of the studied toxins exhibit pro-inflammatory effects on the immune system, several of them demonstrate potential therapeutic applications by controlling the immune response (i.e. acting as immunosuppressive drugs). One such example occurs In the synthetic version of the anemone toxin ShK, which is in the clinical phase to treat autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Therefore, studies of venom components reveal more and more examples of natural toxins with highly specific actions on the immune system, which can be used both as pharmacological tools and as a useful starting point for drug development. Moreover, venoms are known to cause severe and complex envenomings in humans. Understanding the effects triggered by venoms and their toxins is particularly important to elucidate the mechanism of clinical envenomings and help in the discovery of better therapies, i.e. antivenoms.
This Research Topic focuses on recent discoveries on the immunology of toxins as well as on efforts to understand clinical envenomings to improve therapeutic interventions. We welcome expert Reviews of aspects of toxin immunology, as well as Original Research articles describing novel findings related to, but not limited to, the following sub-topics:
- Effects of venoms and toxins in the immune system
- Toxins with potential immunotherapeutic application
- Clinical studies exploring the immunological effects of venom and toxins
- Discovery of new therapies based on neutralization of venoms and toxins (e.g. antibodies)
Keywords: venoms, toxins, immunology, drug development, envenoming
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