Scorpions are terrifying, no argument there. Unfortunately, their unique venom is very useful for a plethora of medical applications and research, from immunosuppressants, to anti-malarial drugs, to cancer research.
The process of extracting this vital substance out of these nightmare creatures — benignly called “scorpion milking” — is its own special minefield. Extraction usually involves electronically stimulating the venom gland, puncturing it, or maceration of the telson (the part of the animal that’s commonly known as the stinger).
“The extraction of scorpion venom is a very difficult task and usually takes at least two experimenters,” says Mouad Mkamel, a researcher from Ben M’sik Hassan II University in Morocco. “There are numerous risks including potentially deadly scorpion stings and electric shocks from the stimulators used to extract the venom.”
Thankfully, Mkamel and team of scientists have made a scorpion-milking robot so that no one will ever have to do that again.
The VES-4 is a lightweight and easily portable robot box designed for research both in the lab and in the field. The robot milks the scorpion by clamping the tail and stimulating the animal with an electric current to emit droplets of venom. The liquid is then collected in an Eppendorf tube below the scorpion and safely stored. The team behind the VES-4 say that the electrical stimulation doesn’t harm the scorpion.
The robot can be programmed for different sizes of scorpions, and then operated with a remote control. An LED screen also displays information about the type of scorpion.
Maybe next the VES-4 team can invent another robot to get the scorpion into the box.