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Breakthrough Science

Breakthrough: The Killer Snail Chemist



These aren’t your ordinary garden snails. Tiny cone snails may boast delicate and gorgeous shells, but they pack a powerful—and lethal—punch. The snails’ venom can be fatal to various fish and even humans.

But it could also offer a potential cure.

Mandë Holford, a biochemist at Hunter College and the American Museum of Natural History, works with a team to investigate the snails’ venom and look for compounds that could be used to treat pain and cancer. Ancient cultures have traditionally used their natural environment to look for cures for the things that ail them, she explains. Now, researchers are investigating how “nature’s deadliest cocktail” could create new pathways for treating old problems.

A film by Science Friday

Produced in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Produced by Emily V. Driscoll and Luke Groskin

Directed and Edited by  Emily V. Driscoll 

Filmed by  Christian Baker and Dusty Hulet 

Animations by M. Gail Rudakewich and Luke Groskin

Music by Audio Network

Additional Photos and Video by
Olivera Lab, Shutterstock, Pond5, NatureFootage, BioPixel, iBiology, Mandë Holford, Gregory S. Herbert
Guillaume van den Bossche, The National Library of Medicine
Project Advisors:
Laura A. Helft, Laura Bonetta, Dennis W.C. Liu and Sean B. Carroll – Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Special Thanks to
American Museum of Natural History, Hunter College, Olivera Lab at the University of Utah
Baldomero “Toto” Olivera, Talia Amador, Devin Callahan, Sean Christensen, Mandë Holford
Gregory S. Herbert, My Huynh, Terry Merritt, Aubrey Miller, Kendra Snyder, Danielle Dana, 
Chistian Skotte, Ariel Zych and Jennifer Fenwick

Science Friday/HHMI © 2017

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  1. Iron Corona

    November 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm


  2. Noah Somerville

    November 2, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Second. But boy, this snail is freaky! I love it!

  3. aleix1203

    November 2, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    "Nature have lots of twists"
    See what you did there

  4. Dio Luki

    November 2, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    That's unbelievable great job !

  5. Victor Kruglov

    November 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    squishy snail noises

  6. Lok Poon

    November 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I think those freshwater goldfish they are feeding the marine snail will suffer less with the venom than the salty water

  7. Anangke

    November 2, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    That was an awesome episode!

  8. Joye Colbeck

    November 2, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Fantastic work. Thankyou.

  9. Geni-us

    November 2, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Very Interesting.

  10. The Majestic Beard

    November 2, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Awesome video, as always 🙂

  11. graphite

    November 3, 2017 at 2:01 am

    So these talented scientists may be able to halt the opiod crisis…. Fund These People Now!!!!

  12. Alex H

    November 3, 2017 at 4:21 am

    I love videos like these.

  13. Mage of Void

    November 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Love this video! Amazing topic and super engaging featured scientist!

  14. _Paws_

    November 3, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    I wonder if she owns Assassin Snails (clea helena)

  15. John Mendoza

    November 12, 2017 at 12:30 am


  16. Morgan Handley

    November 17, 2017 at 8:13 am

    This channel only has 100K subscribers?

  17. Dip Shit

    November 29, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Damn that woman look like she got fangs lmao

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Breakthrough Science

Fascinating treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun




People have long been fascinated with the treasures and mysteries around King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. We take a look at some of the amazing artifacts and a brief history behind their discovery.

Artifacts on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where an exhibition titled “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” is being held in March and April 2018.

A large flail and a copper Heqa Crook which belonged to King Tut.

The pharaoh’s sarcophagus displayed in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Replica of a sandal found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

A dagger blade belonging to the pharaoh. Research suggests the iron came from a meteorite, possibly from one found near Mersa Matruh, Egypt.

Breastplate made with gold and lapis lazuli and featuring Isis, Osiris and Nephthys, from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Several 3,300-year-old jars were found in the tomb of King Tut. These were filled with food, grains, wine and other items the king might need in his afterlife.

Tutankhamun’s golden sarcophagus is displayed at his tomb, in a glass case, at the Valley of the Kings.

The north wall of King Tut’s burial chamber at his tomb.

Tourists look at the tomb of King Tut, which is displayed inside a glass case at the Valley of the Kings.

Ushabti, a funerary statuette in gilded wood, found in the tomb of the king.

A special installer from Egypt places a canopic container in the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, U.S. The artifact was discovered in the king’s tomb.

A funeral mask found in the pharaoh’s tomb.

Archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon photographed during the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922.

The first glimpse of Tutankhamun’s tomb. This was the sight that met the eyes of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter when they broke down the sealed doorway which divided the ante-chamber of the tomb and the sepulchral hall.

Workers excavate the pharaoh’s tomb.

An aerial view of Howard Carter’s archaeological excavation of the tombs of Pharaohs Ramesses VI and Tutankhamen in Valley of the Kings.

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Breakthrough Science

Breakthrough in Asymmetric TSP (ft. Ola Svensson & Jakub Tarnawski)




In 2018, the open problem of determining a polynomial-time constant-factor approximation ratio of the asymmetric travelling salesman problem was finally solved by three researchers. Two of them, Ola Svensson and Jakub Tarnawski, are EPFL researchers. They discuss their breakthroughs with us.

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Breakthrough Science

Fossil Ray Discovery




The second associated specimen ever of a fossil ray (Myledaphus Bipartitus) has been discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park!

Originally published August 26, 2011.

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