Immune drug discovery from venoms

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This review catalogues recent advances in knowledge on venoms as standalone therapeutic agents or as blueprints for drug design, with an emphasis on venom-derived compounds that affects the immune system. We discuss venoms and venom-derived compounds that affect total immune cell numbers, immune cell proliferation, immune cell migration, immune cell phenotype and cytokine secretion. Identifying novel compounds that ‘tune’ the system, up-regulating the immune response during infectious disease and cancer and down-regulating the immune response during autoimmunity, will greatly expand the tool kit of human immunotherapeutics. Targeting these pathways may also open therapeutic options that alleviate symptoms of envenomation. Finally, combining recent advances in venomics with progress in low cost, high-throughput screening platforms will no doubt yield hundreds of prototype immune modulating compounds in the coming years.

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