Killer Snake Venom Provides Protein That Prevents Blood Clots
The two top causes of death in the world are heart attacks and strokes, and a research team in Toronto is onto a promising drug that could do much to reduce or delay those death by reducing their number one cause - blood clots. Ironically, the drug being tested, Anfibatide, is made from a protein extracted from a snake's venom; the snake is one of the deadliest in the world.
In fact, a little bite from the Southeast Asia Pit Viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus), also known as the Sharp-Nosed Viper, is so lethal that the venom is nicknamed the "hundred pacer," because its victim won't last longer than than 100 paces. But this killer snake, native to China, Taiwan, and Vietnam has some life-saving powers too....
"The concept that we can harness something potentially poisonous in nature and turn it into a beneficial therapy is something very exciting," said Dr. Heyu Ni, one of the researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, who is involved in the development of the drug.
When blood vessels bleed, typically as a result of plaque build-up within their walls, blood platelets rush to the wounds to stop the bleeding. They often form clots, however, which can be dangerous in themselves if they continue to build up after the bleeding has stopped, especially in major vessels within the heart, brain, and legs. Ant-clotting drugs may be prescribed, but they tend to prolong the bleeding.
So far, Anfibatide has been shown to be effective in slowing the bleeding while keeping the platelets from attaching themselves to each other and to vessel walls forming clots. This was seen in the blood of 94 healthy volunteers in China, and no side effects were observed.
Ni indicated that the drug is intended to be used early in treatment, when symptoms of heart attack or stroke first occur. Currently, the drug is being tested in China on patients undergoing balloon angioplasty to open up coronary arteries that have narrowed. These tests will help determine the efficacy of the drug and the optimum dose.
A report will be made on Anfibatide research to date at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology on December 9, 2013.