What is a Toxin? - Definition & Example

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Learn about what toxins are in the biological world and see one very common example of a toxin that you hear of all the time. You can also take the quiz to see how well you understand toxins.

What Is a Toxin?

Toxins sounds similar to toxic
Toxic Symbol

Ever heard of a little procedure called Botox injections? Of course, you have. People are flying into their plastic surgeons' offices and asking for it left and right. The celebs are all getting it done. What I bet you didn't know is that Botox comes from a toxin.

A toxin by definition is something that is produced mostly by microorganisms that can cause harmful effects when they are injected, inhaled, eaten, or absorbed through the skin. Toxins can also be produced by some animals and plants.

The next logical question is, why on earth would people purposely inject themselves with something that could be harmful?

People pay top dollar to be injected with a toxin
Picture of syringe and vial

Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin is produced by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. This toxin is considered to be one of the most dangerous toxins, and it is often fatal in large amounts and in certain parts of the body. Botulinum toxin affects the ability of the nerves to communicate with the muscles. Interrupting this communication stops the control of the contraction and relaxation of muscles in the body. It can cause a muscle to remain contracted to the point where it will not relax. Because of its interference with nerve action, it is considered to be a neurotoxin. The toxin becomes fatal when it interferes with contractions of muscles that are necessary for life, such as the cardiac or heart muscle. There are different types of this toxin, and they all have the same effect, but just in varying degrees and in different areas of the body based on how they got into the body.

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