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Snake venom used to stop bleeding
November 8, 2015, 3:59 pm

Scientists at Rice University in the US have developed a hydrogel made of nanofiber which when infused with snake venom could turn out to be the most effective material to stop bleeding quickly, especially in the presence of anti-coagulant medications that thin the blood.

Batroxobin, the venom produced by the South American pit viper, when incorporated into a nanofiber hydrogel called SB50, developed at Rice University, and injected as a liquid to a wound site, was found to quickly turn into a gel, which closes the wound and promotes clotting within seconds.

The hydrogel could be most useful in surgeries, especially for patients who take anti-coagulant drugs such as heparin to thin their blood. Surgical bleeding in patients taking heparin can be a serious problem. The scientists involved in the research say that the use of batroxobin allows them to get around this problem because it can immediately start the clotting process, regardless of whether heparin is there or not.

The scientists who led the research at Rice University, Jeffrey Hartgerink, and Vivek Kumar,  disclosed that the batroxobin used is not taken directly from snakes but is produced by genetically modified bacteria and then purified, thereby avoiding the risk of other contaminant toxins. Tests showed the new material stopped a wound from bleeding in as little as six seconds, and further prodding of the wound minutes later did not reopen it.

The hydrogel takes the powerful clotting ability of the snake venom and makes it far more effective by delivering it in a manner that prevents unwanted systemic effects that could be caused by using batroxobin on its own. The scientists admit that several more years of testing will be required before the hydrogel infused with venom can be used for clinical purposes.

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