Robo-Scorpions Help Harvest Venom

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    While some people fret over losing their job to advanced artificial intelligence, scientists are employing robots to do their dirty work.

    A new scorpion-milking machine can replace the traditional manual method of collecting venom.

    Often used in medical applications like immunosuppressants, anti-malarial drugs, and cancer research, the toxin has life-saving qualities. But the extraction process can be potentially life-threatening.

    “This robot makes venom recovery fast and safe,” according to Mouad Mkamel, who designed the android with a team of researchers from Ben M’sik Hassan II University in Morocco.

    The process, as detailed by Dan Massey—a 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona’s College of Pharmacy—in the video below, requires hours of manual labor and pretty precarious conditions.

    By administering low electrical stimulation, which Massey promises does not hurt the scorpion, the researcher is able to force an elixir out of the tail.

    “The extraction of scorpion venom is a very difficult task and usually takes at least two experimenters,” Mkamel explained. “There are numerous risks including potentially deadly scorpion stings and electric shocks from the stimulators used to extract the venom.”

    So, Mkamel and his team created the VES-4 device—a lightweight, portable robot that remotely culls toxins without harming the animal or the human.

    All known scorpion species possess venom, primarily used to kill or paralyze prey before meals. The fast-acting toxicant is a mixture of compounds, made and stored in a pair of glandular sacs.

    Luckily for researchers, of the 1,000-plus known species of scorpion, only 25 have venom deadly to humans.

    Still, why take a chance when you can utilize a robot instead?

    The VES-4 has so far been tested on multiple scorpion breeds. Smart enough to remember specific settings for different varieties of arachnids, the machine even comes with a LED screen to display the name of the species currently being milked.

    No further details, however, are available about the cyborg or its availability.

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