The eastern brown viper tends to enjoy lurking in hiding spots to capture Australian rodents. They are the second deadliest land snake and can kill a human in under half an hour – but this venom (and that of the Australia saw-scaled viper) could have some life-saving properties. Who would have thought that snake venom may be able to be used to save lives? Well, some savvy scientists, that's who.
The team at the University of Queensland has developed a “venom gel” comprised of two recombinant snake venom proteins. This rapid wound sealant can initiate blood clotting and prevent blood clot breakdown. The team comes from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and has published the paper in Advanced Healthcare Materials.
Venom is normally a very complex matrix, and there are proteins in it that are essential in blood clotting. The venom gel remains in a liquid state but solidifies at a body temperature, which will give the exciting property of sealing wounds. Currently, first aid training relies on a gauze product that does not always stop the bleeding.
Once the venom gel has been developed and tested, it could be a life-saving addition to first-aid kits for the public and military.
“As many as 40 per cent 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,” Amanda Kijas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on the project said in a statement. “Nature has created the most elegant and sophisticated mechanisms, and we can repurpose them to save people from dying due to uncontrolled bleeding.”
“The research shows there is five times less blood loss, and clots form three times more quickly when the venom gel is applied, compared to the body’s natural process.” Says Kijas, “This even includes people with haemophilia and those using blood thinners.”
Currently, this venom gel is undergoing a pre-clinical testing phase and may be scaled up for commercial use. This work is being conducted with Mark Midwinter from the University of Queensland School of Biomedical Sciences.
“When a traumatic injury occurs, the complexity of the healing process overloads the body’s capacity to control the bleeding,” Kijas 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.”