Published: Nov 15, 2011 4:12 PM EST

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Four Western diamondback rattlesnakes from Albuquerque's zoo are helping with the first clinical trials of venom as a cancer treatment in humans.
    
Officials say the snakes have been sent to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, one of four premier venom laboratories in the United States. The snakes' venom will be extracted and sent to France, where the clinical studies are under way.
    
Snake venom contains hundreds of proteins that affect the human body in various ways.
    
The proteins can be devastating when combined. In isolation, these proteins can be used to treat health issues from strokes and heart attacks to Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
    
Scientists at the Kentucky zoo are extracting the rattlesnakes' venom using a non-harmful method that allows the snakes to bite and excrete the venom naturally.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)