Snake Venom ‘Super Glue’ Stops Bleeding

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Bothrops atrox, also called lancehead snake. Photo by Bernard Dupont (Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers at Western University have designed a new bioadhesive gel using snake venom, that can stop bleeding within seconds.

We’ve all heard of people dying from snake venom, but can the deadly poison also save lives? Professor Kibret Mequanint at the Western University, with the help of international researchers, seem to have discovered a life-saving property of snake venom.

The team looked at lancehead snakes (Bothrops atrox), the most poisonous snake in South America. Its hemorrhagic venom can result in severe bleeding, abnormal clotting, kidney failure, and necrosis. The venom contains a blood-clotting enzyme called reptilase. In laboratories, this helps detect blood clotting abnormalities. Thus, inspired by its blood clotting property, researchers included it in their study.

They designed a bioadhesive containing modified gelatin and the enzyme reptilase. This ‘super glue’ acts as a sealant by activating platelet aggregation and transforming fibrinogen to fibrin. Therefore, resulting in hemostasis at the site of bleeding.

During trauma, injury and emergency bleeding, this ‘super glue’ can be applied by simply squeezing the tube and shining a visible light, such as a laser pointer, over it for few seconds. Even a smartphone flashlight will do the job.

Professor Kibret Mequanint, senior author

Blood Clotting Time Cut by Half

Currently, surgeons use clinical fibrin glue as an adhesive in surgical settings. Although it has excellent clotting properties, bleeding can often compromise its adhesive strength. Thus, resulting in haemorrhage and ultimately death.

According to the study published in Science Advances, the snake venom ‘super glue’ has 10 times the adhesive strength of clinical fibrin glue. Moreover, the bioadhesive gel cut the blood clotting time by half. While the fibrin glue took 90 seconds to stop bleeding, the snake venom ‘super glue’ took 45 seconds.

We envision that this tissue ‘super glue’ will be used in saving lives on the battlefield, or other accidental traumas like car crashes.

Professor Kibret Mequanint, senior author

So far, researchers have tested the new adhesive in models for various major bleeding situations: deep skin cuts, ruptured aortae, and severely injured livers. It showed great results in all. The authors of the study believe that the ‘super glue’ can likely decrease blood loss and save more lives. Moreover, it can be used for the closure of surgical wounds in the future

The researchers are now working on bringing this technology to the clinic.

Reference:

Guo, Yicheng, et al. “Snake Extract–Laden Hemostatic Bioadhesive Gel Cross-Linked by Visible Light.” Science Advances, vol. 7, no. 29, 2021, doi:10.1126/sciadv.abf9635.

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