Many diseases in the 20th Century have been controlled or overcome by the progression in scientific knowledge; the diseases that were incurable in the past centuries have been cured with the efforts of scientists who got indulged in the discoveries and started working on latest scientific findings. Despite the development of new drugs and vaccines artificially, nature has provided the cure for any kind of disease in natural organisms which can be found and put before the public by the help of scientists.
Worker honey bees have in their abdomen the venom sac composed of colorless, odorless and watery fluid that is injected into the body of the opponent via a sting. This venom produces irritation and a burning sensation for some time depending on the type and species of bee. Worth mentioning here is that the venom of the honey bee has the ability to cure many fatal diseases that were incurable up to the start of 20th Century.
In 1998, Michael Wachinger and coworkers studied the honey bee venom and an important protein sequence that is present in the venom called ‘Mellitin’. This protein in honey bee has the antimicrobial activity and has the ability to disrupt bacterial membranes thus rendering them harmless. Along with mellitin they also studied another protein sequence called ‘cecropin’ which is found in moths and in mammals, this also had the same function as of mellitin. Mellitin also had the antiviral activity as the studies showed that the mellitin acts against many retroviruses in mice and also against Tobacco Mosaic Virus. In addition to these viruses, Wachinger and coworkers studied the effect of mellitin against the HIV-I virus that is the cause of AIDS. In HIV-I the mellitin caused the disruption of the viral coat protein and interfered with the genetic product of the virus and thus suppressed the viral gene expression lowering the HIV-I infection in human T lymphocyte cells.
Scientists of Washington University, School of Medicine in St. Louis have recently developed a technique to apply this naturally occurring protein sequence to the targeted cells in the human body via nanoparticles fused with mellitin protein. Nanoparticles are the particles of size in nanometers and one nanometer is the 1 billionth part of 1-meter object. Imagine these nanoparticles as the small balls with attached threads of mellitin to its outer surface. These nanoparticles have the ability to enter those parts of the body that remain undetectable and thus mellitin could be applied to the cells that remain undetectable. Mellitin gets attached to the coat protein of HIV viruses by making holes in the protein coat and suppresses their gene expression. Apart from HIV, various other diseases are also known that can be cured using bee venom which includes Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis and Arthritis. Bee venom also has another chemical called Apamin that has the ability to cause the pituitary gland to release corticotropin hormone which in turn causes the pituitary to release cortisol which helps activate body’s own immune response.
From all this information what do you think Pakistani scientists must do? In my view “due to limited resources and limited funding our research facilities need more upgrading for such kind of experiments” and it is the phrase that our teachers use again and again but not all laboratories are like that. In Pakistan, we have some research institutes where such experimental works can be carried out by young researchers. What we need is to spread the word about the importance of honey bees and to make fresh and young scientists aware of the marvels of nature that are currently becoming extinct due to the invasion of GM crops and excessive use of round-up ready herbicides and other chemicals that are killing many friendly insects and other organisms along with the harmful ones.
Monsanto being the only top exporter of BT-cotton seeds in Pakistan has urged uneducated farmers to grow more and get more, but I do not think that they have provided us enough information about the fall of cotton yield a few years later, they have not told us completely about the side effects of endotoxins produced by BT-cotton and BT-corn on the experimental mice in labs on which they tested the effect of GM seeds. In USA honey bees are becoming extinct due to the use of ‘Terminator Seeds’, these are the seeds from which the GM plants produced would produce the sterile seeds, which means the next generation of seeds will not be able to produce the further generation of seeds. By the consumption of nectar from the flowers of such GM plants, heavy metals accumulate in the gut of the bees and they die due to blockage. Now, what do you think why you do not get the raw honey from the honey bee hives in Pakistan? The answer is that this is due to the shortage of honey bees and they are very rarely seen and even in the jungles the population of bees has been decreased. Now it is up to you whether you like to use GM plants or depend on nature and Almighty Lord to fulfill your needs.
I hope that in future the work on mellitin if carried out in Pakistan will also lead us to find the cure for Hepatitis-C as this disease is also caused due to retrovirus (RNA virus) and it can also be cured with this natural chemical or other useful proteins in the bee venom. After all, we must not forget this verse of Quran:
“Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny” (Surah Rahman).