Could snake venom replace aspirin for heart disease patients?
Snake venom may replace aspirin as a protein found in the poison of a species native to south-east Asia thins the blood without side effects, new research reveals.
When given to mice, the protein slowed the rate of blood clot formation, a study found.
It also did not cause excessive bleeding, which is a common side effect of existing treatments, the research adds.
Blood-thinning medications, also known as anti-platelet drugs, prevent specific blood cells from clumping together and forming clots. Such therapies are commonly used to treat heart disease.
Yet, further research is required before the drug can be given to patients, researchers add.
Researchers from the National Taiwan University designed a drug that interacts with a receptor on the surface of blood-clotting cells.
Venom of the Tropidolaemus waglerix snake contains a protein, known as trowaglerix, that latches on to the receptor, called GPVI, to block its blood-clotting actions.
The protein was mixed with blood and given to mice.
Results revealed that the treated mice had slower blood clot formation than animals that did not receive the therapy.
The treated mice also did not bleed longer than animals not given the protein.
The findings were published in the journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Existing anti-clotting drugs target another protein and are based on a different component of snake venom.
Yet, these drugs commonly cause bleeding as a side effect, according to Dr Huang. Avoiding this complication could lead to a new, safer class of drugs, the researchers add. Yet, the treatment needs further testing before it can be used in patients.
Study author Dr. Jane Tseng said: “In general, this type of molecule design does not last long in the body, so techniques like formulation or delivery system are likely needed to extend the exposure time in the human body.
“The design must also be optimized to ensure that the molecule only interacts with [the receptor] GPVI and not other proteins which can cause unintended reactions.”