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May 01, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 9)

Toxin, Toxin-Target Database

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The sickly green color of the homepage (as well as the prominent biohazard sign) suggests that something sinister lurks within this website. Indeed, the name of the site confirms it—this is a database housing information for over 2,900 toxins ranging from pesticides to pollutants to drugs. The database combines data about the toxins with information about their biological targets, such that each toxin-specific page (on the website it’s referred to as the “toxin card”) contains a description of the toxin, alternate names, the chemical structure and chemical properties, as well as medically relevant information such as toxicity values, health effects, symptoms, molecular targets, and treatment. (As a side note, it’s fascinating how many targets some of these toxins have!) The site is well organized and clean in its design, and it is a fantastic resource for biologists.

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*The opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as reflecting the viewpoints of the publisher, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., the publishing house, or employees and affiliates thereof.

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Scientifically Studying Ecstasy

MDMA (commonly known as the empathogen “ecstasy”) is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for compounds with no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. Two researchers from Stanford, however, call for a rigorous scientific exploration of MDMA's effects to identify precisely how the drug works, the data from which could be used to develop therapeutic compounds.

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