Venom from snakes and lizards could lead to the development of new drugs for cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, scientists say.
An Australian National University academic was part of an international team who found that toxins in snake and lizard venom could evolve back into harmless molecules.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, raised the possibility the venoms could be developed into drugs, researchers said.
Dr Gavin Huttley from The John Curtin School of Medical Research at the university said the results suggested venom molecules had evolved for non-venom purposes in nature and could therefore be modified to provide benefit to an organism.
The study's lead author, Dr Nicholas Caswell from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK, said snake venom molecules were used to kill prey but some also had different functions in other body tissues.
Co-author Dr Wolfgang Wuster from Bangor University said snake venom toxins targeted the same physiological pathways that can also be targeted to treat a variety of medical conditions.
"Understanding how toxins can be tamed into harmless physiological proteins may aid the development of cures from venom," he said.