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Scientists develop gel made from snake venom to control heavy bleeding

Saw-scaled-Viper-wikimedia-commons.webp

Saw-scaled viper is one of poisonous snakes whose venom is used to create the gel to stop bleeding. A relatively tiny reptile with very potent venom and it is found in peninsular India and Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Human beings are mortally afraid of snakes and more so from those whose venom is lethal! Yet, on the flip side their poison can trigger prompt action of stopping bleeding as per a report in smithsonianmag.com.

Scientists from Australia’s University of Queensland who deal in biomaterials have made a gel which can make blood clot not in minutes but in seconds! When available for use, this can be very beneficial for paramedics and armed forces personnel to check flow of blood from grievous injuries especially when the patient or the injured is being rushed for treatment.

Now what makes this gel so effective? The answer is the venom of not one but two of the world’s deadliest snakes. One is eastern brown snake or Pseudonaja textilis, a highly venomous viper found in the central and eastern regions of Australia and also southern New Guinea.

The other is the saw-scaled viper or Echis carinatus whose habitat is spread over Asia, Africa and West Asia. This relatively tiny reptile with very potent venom is found in peninsular India and northwest India including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

One snake venom protein from each of these vipers is used to make the gel infusing it with the property of acting as a wound sealant. Features of this gel have been published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

Sharing details about the study, its co-author Amanda Kijas in a statement said: “As many as 40 percent of trauma-related deaths are the result of uncontrolled bleeding, and this figure is much higher when it comes to military personnel with serious bleeding in a combat zone. Nature has created the most elegant and sophisticated mechanisms, and we can repurpose them to save people from dying due to uncontrolled bleeding.”

Kijas is a bioengineer in Queensland, Australia.

Bleeding does not stop because of gauze and tissue glues. It is clotting or coagulation of blood that does the job. But when the injury is serious causing rapid loss of blood, then specialised cells and proteins swing into action and convert the blood and lymph from liquid form to a gel which acts as a clot. Platelets and red blood cells perform the role of a plug and fibrin protein strands strengthen it.

The Eastern Brown snake (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@GregBourke3)

The new gel which is bioengineered hastens the above process and this is done with the proteins ecarin and textilinin. The first is derived from the poison of a saw-scaled snake and this aids and assists in fast blood clotting. Textilinin obtained from the eastern brown snake does not allow the blood clots to disintegrate and instead makes them stronger and durable, stated the study.

Proteins with pro-coagulant attributes can be lethal when they enter the body as venom injected by the snake fangs. The poison does not allow the blood to flow in the arteries and veins thereby causing tissues and organs to go without their lifeline – blood.

The hydrogel which is created synthetically uses these proteins in small quantities at the affected region and does not spread in the body. Since it has the feature of being thermo-responsive, when stored in a cool place it remains in liquid state yet the body temperature can turn it into solid resulting in sealing of the wound, according to the statement.

Having created the gel from the venoms, the scientists tested it on mice. The results were amazing – clots which were stable were created within 60 seconds as compared to the normal clot which takes eight minutes to form. Moreover, when blood thinner like warfarin, which are commonly used, was present, it still controlled the bleeding, bringing down the volume of blood from 48 per cent to 12 per cent.

Commenting on its attributes, Kijas in the statement said: “We hope this gel will accelerate the wound-healing processes needed for clotting and reducing blood flow, ultimately boosting the body’s capacity to heal large wounds.”

At present the gel is undergoing pre-clinical testing and is being scaled up for commercial applications.

The scientists now want to study and find out how the gel can be used for treating trauma injuries and burns.

Also read: Have today's snakes evolved from ancestors who had limbs millions of years ago?