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article imageSnake venom hydrogel stops bleeding fast

By Tim Sandle     Nov 3, 2015 in Science
A nanofiber hydrogel containing snake venom effectively stops bleeding quickly, according to a new study. The development could aid those with clotting issues during surgery.
Researchers at Rice University used a hydrogel coded SB50 infused with a snake venom called batroxobin. The venom is found in two different species of South American pit viper, but for the study the research group used an artificial form of the toxin created by genetically modified bacteria.
Hydrogels are a network of water-attracting (hydrophilic) polymer chains. Such gels are are very absorbent — they can absorb 90 percent water relative to their mass. Hydrogels also very flexible and many types exhibit the phenomenon of thixotropy (here they become fluid when agitated and re-solidify when rested).
In practical simulations, using animal models, the combination is injected as a liquid and it rapidly forms a gel at the wound site. The gel formation closes the wound and triggers blood clotting. In one trial, bleeding was stopped in as little as six seconds.
The blood clotting is caused by the batroxobin venom. This type of snake venom has been known to have coagulant abilities for over 80 years. The function of the venom is not blocked by heparin. The formation of the gel was created via synthetic, self-assembling nanofibers on the absorption of blood and other body fluids.
It is hoped the gel can be used in surgery and it may prove particularly useful for patients who need to take blood thinning anti-coagulants. Patients on heparin are at a serious risk of bleeding during surgical procedures.
Commenting on the study, lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Hartgerink, told Laboratory Manager magazine: “We think SB50 has great potential to stop surgical bleeding, particularly in difficult cases in which the patient is taking heparin or other anti-coagulants.”
The research is published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering. The article is headed “Nanofibrous Snake Venom Hemostat.”
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