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Biotech The Almighty Buck

Bee Venom Has "Botox-Like Effect," Is Worth 7 Times As Much As Gold 248

Posted by timothy
from the not-sure-smart-money-is-the-right-word dept.
dryriver writes "The BBC reports that cosmetic products using bee venom as an ingredient are a new 'hot seller' in the cosmetics market. Bee venom is said to have an effect on female skin similar to Botox injections, tightening the skin and making wrinkles and other signs of aging appear less pronounced than before. Unlike Botox, however, bee venom does not need to be injected, and can be absorbed through the skin naturally as an ingredient of cosmetic skin creme. Now comes the kicker: A special electrified device that causes bees to sting a synthetic membrane and release their venom can harvest about one gram of bee venom from 20 bee hives. That one gram of bee venom is worth a whopping 350 dollars. This makes bee venom almost seven times more valuable than gold, which, in comparison, is worth only about 53 dollars per gram."
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Bee Venom Has "Botox-Like Effect," Is Worth 7 Times As Much As Gold

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  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:38PM (#42379377) Journal
    I think we've finally found the real reason why honey bees are disappearing.
  • Not for long (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Instead of producing it from bees for $350/g, you could put the appropriate genes into some E. coli and have them produce it for 20% of that price or less. But of course then you wouldn't be able to sell it for $350/g.

    • by Sulphur (1548251) on Monday December 24, 2012 @01:29AM (#42379817)

      Instead of producing it from bees for $350/g, you could put the appropriate genes into some E. coli and have them produce it for 20% of that price or less. But of course then you wouldn't be able to sell it for $350/g.

      I thought getting shitfaced meant something else.

    • Not quite as simple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrYak (748999) on Monday December 24, 2012 @06:03AM (#42380553) Homepage

      First you have to know which compound of the venom are the active ingredient (a venom is not a single molecule, it's a big mix of lots of substances).

      Maybe the important part are just small peptide (works also for small nucleic acid strands). In this case, yes: just slap the gene inside a bacteria or yeast and just harvest the thing in a huge brewery tank. This will cost a tiny fraction of the current method. (as in "a few bucks for a dozen of kilograms"). Washing industry thrives on this kind of process and has already made it fucking incredibly cheap (do you really think that the digestive enzyme in your washing powder where harvested from actual animals ?)

      But maybe not. Maybe it can be a complex protein that requires some post processing (chaperone helping to fold it into an unusual shape, enzyme modifying some parts) - (but very unlikely. If the venom can cross the skin without injection, it needs to be something small). Or maybe it can be a small chemical molecule that is produced by a long and complex chain of chemical reaction necessitating a big collection of enzymes (very likely, given that it can easily cross the skin).
      In this case you need to identify the candidate, understand the process that produce it (not impossible but it takes time), and then either put the whole machinery inside yeast (bacteria post-process a lot less their proteins) and go for the brewery-tank method, or replicate the synthesis in another way (produce the protein in bacteria and then do the modification in a lab. Or find a way to synthetise the small chemical compound by using a sequence of chemical reactions in a lab) and scale it up to industrial scale.
      This *WILL* end up being incredibly cheap in the long term, but requires much more research and development.

      There's a whole branch of science to study that, called "Venomics".

      Until then, you're stuck at putting bee on a micro electric chair until they are so pissed of that they start stinging the glass.

      (And I'm betting that perhaps, all the benefit come from the few traces of adrenalin-like substance that the bee end-up secreting after going through such predicament and of which a small part might end up in the venom itself).

      But the fact that they extract only a gram from a whole hive, means that they are probably concentrating/extracting the product already, so they know already a few tips in which direction to look to find the interresting part.

  • by theIsovist (1348209) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:48PM (#42379437)
    Bee's die after stinging, which means that you're losing twenty hives of bees for only $350. That sounds like a huge loss to any bee keeper. That also seems like a hell of a lose of bees that are already suffering from sudden colony collapse... Am I wrong here?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I believe they only die if their stinger breaks off. One would assume that the membrane is designed to leave the stinger intact.

    • by Zomalaja (1324199) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:55PM (#42379467)
      http://www.abeeco.co.nz/shop/Bee+Venom+Products.html [abeeco.co.nz]
      "To extract the Bee Venom a pane of glass is placed along side the hive and a small electrical current is run through it, which encourages the bees to sting the surface. The bees are not harmed in the process."
  • by alienzed (732782) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:50PM (#42379445) Homepage
    leave them bee!
  • by Fyzzler (1058716) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:51PM (#42379451)
  • price comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swell (195815) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:53PM (#42379455)

    "This makes Bee Venom almost seven times more valuable than Gold, which, in comparison, is worth only about 53 Dollars per 1 gram."

    So it costs the same as ink for my printer, data for my cellphone, gas for my car (soon), and clean drinking water (later).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Man, I wonder how much and what animal venom they use in my ink jet printer cartridges...

  • I'm glad bee venom is worth something, perhaps it will inspire people to try stave off the great bee die off. However I don't give a damn what wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket venom is worth, if I see one in the wrong place it's going to die a horrible death. Dammit

  • Perhaps due to limited / patent-restricted availability of the extraction method.

    The price will likely decrease, when owners of large bee colonies start figuring out ways of capitalizing on this.

    Or when biotech folks come up with a way of producing "synthetic" bee venom, grown by bacteria infused with genes extracted from the bees.

    • Maybe...I know beekeepers are having population issues due to mites/disease/colony collapse disorder.
  • by Demonantis (1340557) on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:25AM (#42379591)
    There are a ton of products more valuable than gold. I don't understand why that is a big deal. Hopefully this makes honey cheaper with the extra source of income.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      If this produced more honey, I could see prices reducing. Otherwise, I don't tell my boss to pay me less just because my stocks do well.
  • Wasabi (Score:2, Informative)

    I just saw fresh whole (not ground) wasabi root for sale in a Japanese market in Los Angeles for $149 a pound. A one inch diameter piece 3/4 inch long was around $9. The second most expensive food I found was Spanish Blue Fin tuna for $55 a pound.
  • I don't understand this gold thing against which the commercial value of this bee sting is being compared. Please express this in terms of:

    1. Bags of potato fries (for fitness conscious folks)
    2. The average software patent (for nerds like us)
    3. Members of the senate (who care so much for us)
    4. iPhones (everyone seems to want one)
    5. Windows 8 licenses (see above)
    6. First posts on /. (I wish this one was)

    • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Monday December 24, 2012 @01:04AM (#42379747)

      I need clarification on your proposed measurement #3.

      By 'Members of the Senate", do you mean:

      a) The value of their lives (What the rest of us would be losing if they were to magically disappear in a Harry Potter-esque manner),
      b) Their value to the rest of us (What we gain from them per capita versus what they take from us),
      -or-
      c) What it costs to buy one (What needs explaining?!)

    • I don't understand this gold thing against which the commercial value of this bee sting is being compared.

      Me neither. I mean, I have the most unique piece of naval lint in the Universe right here -- an infinity of each of your six metrics could not compensate the rarity of this naval lint, my DNA on it is unique and once discovered I vowed to never let any accumulate again, so It's one of a kind -- and yet, no one values it; However, theres multitudes of bees, diamonds, gold, and other resources and they're seen as more valuable. It seems the value allocation system is arbitrary and corrupt.

      As in all thing

    • by stewbee (1019450)
      and you can't forget number 7, which is size related to football fields.
  • by jomegat (706411) on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:41AM (#42379645)
    That must be what they use to make inkjet printer ink.
  • Lolwut (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psicopatico (1005433) <psicopatico@NoSp ... delrutto.zzn.com> on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:54AM (#42379705)

    Bee's venom can kill by inducing shock in allergic subjects.
    It looks like it has a very nasty property of being a potential allergenic (I hope I got the correct term. If not, sorry) meaning: once you get stinged, you may become allergic to venom even if before you weren't. This in sufficently predisposed subjects.

    And now it is going to be the golden ingredient for some cosmetic? I hope it is going to be subjected to some form of medical control, to say the least.

    But I'm no chemist nor biologist so I may be completely wrong.

    • I wouldn't worry about it. Given how expensive the venom is, any skin creme that uses it is going to be diluting to homeopathic levels anyway.

  • This reminds me of an urban legend (or maybe I just watched it on Fox) about some guys basically stinging their penis with bee's to make it swell up.

    • some guys basically stinging their penis with bee's to make it swell up.

      I've discovered that beavers can have the same effect.

    • by samson13 (1311981)

      This reminds me of an urban legend (or maybe I just watched it on Fox) about some guys basically stinging their penis with bee's to make it swell up.

      I don't think it works this way.

      The story starts with a backyard apiarist doing a quick check of my hives in the middle of January. It was stinking hot. Since I was not planning on taking any real time or doing any real work I was wearing lite shoes that didn't tuck into my suit very well. Combine this with the bad choice of boxer shorts, a little bee leakage led to at least one bee in a very dangerous place.

      Lifting the second box back on I lent against it leading to the worst sting I've ever experienced.

  • Wow! That makes it worth almost 1 percent its weight in inkjet printer ink.

  • I imagine that people with serious bee sting allergies are best advised to avoid this treatment.

  • to have an effect on female skin

    Male skin is not affected, thusly.

  • You, know, just monkey around with their DNA a bit, to produce bees that pump out a gallon or four liters of venom per sting?

    This is done in bad science fiction films all the time. Start doing underground nuclear tests again with beehives. Or zap them with Gamma Rays.

    But be careful not to get them too angry.

    And tell chicks that want better skin to just go stick their heads in a beehive.

    • If the vvenom is a nice simple single gene, you could probably stick it in some bacteria. Worked for insulin.

      If you need to get a whole chemical pathway copied, it's not so easy,

  • A small correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Monday December 24, 2012 @02:16AM (#42379909)

    Botox injections, tightening the skin and making wrinkles and other signs of aging appear less pronounced...

    Botulinum toxin does not tighten the skin - it paralyses muscles, and since many wrinkles are aggravated by muscles in the skin, paralysing them can make the wrinkles less pronounced. This paralysis is very evident on the faces of many aging celebrities - they simply struggle with producing facial expressions.

    It's a strange thing, isn't it? Instead of accepting their age, people mistreat themselves so they look 'younger', at least when you're not too close. I think it is deeply sad; and it only makes you look less attractive.

  • Some people may want to harvest the bee venom themselves... but provided that most of people confuse bees and wasps, that may be dangerous (yes, Maya the bee is actually a wasp).
  • Praise be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Monday December 24, 2012 @05:45AM (#42380481)

    Colony collapse disorder? Failure of crop pollenation worldwide? The possible end of agriculture and mass starvations and food riots worldwide? None of that was important enough to save the bees.

    But now, shit, the bees might be able to keep aging Baby Boomers looking young! Nothing can compete with that, the bees are SAVED!

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