This frog’s light-hearted name masks the seriousness of the toxin embedded in its skin. Last year, a ring of horse owners was busted for doping their racehorses with the toxin that simultaneously made the animals numb and hyperactive. Used more judiciously, however, the frog’s venom could control blood vessel growth, known as angiogenesis, which may be useful in starving cancer cells. Some cases of diabetes-related blindness are also caused by out-of-control blood vessel growth, which damages the retina, and rheumatoid arthritis is linked to an explosion of vessels that feed inflamed areas with more disease-causing compounds.
Christopher Shaw of the Queen’s University at Belfast School of Pharmacy says that the frog’s anti-angiogenic properties could prove useful in treating these diseases, although researchers have to work fast. Mass extinctions of various frog species threaten to wipe out species such as this one before venoms can be isolated and analyzed. The waxy monkey frog-based agent should be set for human trials within the year.