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Old 12-11-2002, 05:15 PM
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Build up an immunity to poison?

An old plot device is the hero (or villain) building up a resistance to a poison by taking little bits of it for many years, slowly building up to large amounts until it no longer affects him.

Can this really be done? Only with certain types of poison? Which ones? Can I take small amounts of hemlock, strychnine, or arsenic, and build up immunity to them? How does this work? Does your liver "learn" to filter out these nasties more efficiently?

*begins taking plutonium pills in preparation for the big one*
Old 12-11-2002, 05:19 PM
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Certainly, the ancient kings used to do it all the time. I think it was an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who when tried to commit suicide when his kingdom was conquered only to fail as he had already built up a too high immunity to the posion he took.
Old 12-11-2002, 05:20 PM
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Remember, anti-venom is created by injecting horses with poision so that their body reacts and produces it.
Old 12-11-2002, 05:22 PM
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It can be done with some types of poison.

Many (or at least some) of the snake venoms can have a tolerance built for. This is done by developing anti-bodies to the venom by repeated sublethal doses.

Anti-venom is made in a similar fashion by injecting animals (often horses) repeatedly and then collecting their anti-bodies.

As to hemlock, strychnine, etc.... I have no idea.
Old 12-11-2002, 05:23 PM
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Obligitory Princess Bride reference

"They were both poisioned. I've spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."

Zev Steinhardt
Old 12-11-2002, 05:24 PM
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Dang, MC took some of my thunder.
Old 12-11-2002, 06:13 PM
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I doubt you could build up a resistance to something like carbon monoxide or cyanide. Since they work by binding to the iron in hemoglobin I can't imagin there is any way for the body to compensate unless it can redesign the hemoglobin so that these little beasties can't bind to the iron.

I wonder if building up a resistance to a poison is limited to protien based toxins (I think that most venoms are protien based but I don't know.)? Anybody know?
Old 12-11-2002, 06:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by MC Master of Cermonies
Certainly, the ancient kings used to do it all the time. I think it was an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who when tried to commit suicide when his kingdom was conquered only to fail as he had already built up a too high immunity to the posion he took.
Mithridates VI of Pontus.
Old 12-11-2002, 06:29 PM
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WAG - you can build up an immunity to protien-based poisons that act on a "cellular" level like snake venom. You can't generally build up a resistance to poisons that can accumulate in the body like heavy metals. It is also, I suspect, extremely difficult to build up an immunity to "poisons" that operate on a "chemical" level, e.g. slight exposure to hydrogen cyanide is unlikely to generate any immunity because 1) it operates to quickly for your body to respond, 2) you would have to change your basic blood chemistry to render it ineffective.

Having said that, someone, somewhere, is probably capable of generating at least some immunity to anything. Certainly, life itself is capable of adapting itself to all kinds of incredibly "toxic" environments. For example, I can imagine a protein that binds to cyanide in the blood stream and renders it harmless, thereby giving the organism some tolerance for exposure to cyanide.

Darn, I see on preview that Christopher has already made some of these points.
Old 12-11-2002, 06:49 PM
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So... Stop taking the plutonium pills?
Old 12-11-2002, 06:51 PM
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Quote:
I wonder if building up a resistance to a poison is limited to protein based toxins (I think that most venoms are protein based but I don't know.)? Anybody know?
It's not. There are all sorts of non-protein compounds that you can build up a tolerance to. Morphine, amphetamines, strychnine, some blood pressure medications... When you take any of these compounds repeatedly in a non-lethal dose, your body, usually your liver, will alter itself so as to metabolize the chemicals more quickly. Thatís one of the reasons drugs addicts need to increase their dosage repeatedly. Itís also why they can handle amounts of heroine etc. that would kill us ordinary mortals.
Old 12-11-2002, 06:57 PM
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Quote:
So... Stop taking the plutonium pills?

Especially if you think you may be pregnant . . .
Old 12-11-2002, 07:06 PM
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Hmm... So could I develop a cocktail of nasty-bad stuff, take it in small doses, and develop some sort of Uber-Liver? Would there be any other health benfits to having a good resistence to these poisons and toxins?
Old 12-11-2002, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Muad'Dib
Hmm... So could I develop a cocktail of nasty-bad stuff, take it in small doses, and develop some sort of Uber-Liver?
Excellent! Just the marketing gimmick you need for your bar!
Old 12-11-2002, 09:18 PM
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Seriously. Is the liver like a muscle? If I get it to work often will it generally be better at filtering out the unknown chaumurky in my soda?
Old 12-11-2002, 10:33 PM
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The liver responds to whatever you feed it. If you treat it harshly it will start producing more enzymes or cells to handle the load. If you overload it too often, it will turn yellow and fibrous and you will die.
Hereís a quick Overview of the Liver
More detail on Structure and Function
Liver enzymes and drug interactions: The Good Stuff.
Old 12-11-2002, 10:37 PM
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Anti-venom??

I thought the correct term was "antivenin".

Eric Schadenfreude
Old 12-12-2002, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Hmm... So could I develop a cocktail of nasty-bad stuff, take it in small doses, and develop some sort of Uber-Liver?
Uber-Liver! Rock band!


RR
Old 12-12-2002, 01:43 PM
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Well, there's always arsenic. But as a plot device, it's been used before, e.g. "Strong Poison", by Dorothy L. Sayers.

See:
http://intro.chem.okstate.edu/ChemSo...forechem13.htm

and scroll down to "literature."
Old 12-12-2002, 01:46 PM
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When I was a kid I visited the Miami Serpentarium, where Dr. William Haas "milked" cobras and injected some of it into himself. His blood was supposed to be much in demand for people having a bad reaction to snake bites.

Haas would take out a long (more than 10 foot) King Cobra from its cage and place it in the middle of a grass patch with tourists all around -- no cages, bars, or glass walls between them and the cobra. He's "charm" the cobra, distracting it with his hand, until he could reach around rapidly, grab the cobra by the neck, and "milk" it into a conical containere with surgical rubber stretched across the top.

Try getting away with putting that show on in Miami today!
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Old 12-12-2002, 03:00 PM
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Certainly, life itself is capable of adapting itself to all kinds of incredibly "toxic" environments. For example, I can imagine a protein that binds to cyanide in the blood stream and renders it harmless, thereby giving the organism some tolerance for exposure to cyanide.
Of course, cyanide is only deadly to things which have blood. I should certainly hope, for instance, that it's not deadly to almonds, or apple trees.
Old 12-13-2002, 11:28 AM
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So... If I get rid of blood... I can enjoy all of the cyanide I want!
Mmmm... Cyanide...
Old 01-06-2003, 06:01 AM
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With Mint Frosting!
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