Antivenom, made from snake venom is used for many purposes but most importantly for treating snake bites. This is prepared by extracting venom from the fangs of a snake and injecting this venom in animals such as horses. The venom usually given in a small dose triggers the immune response of the animal which leads to antibody production against this venom. These antibodies then extracted, and purified from the blood and used to treat other people.
Antivenom production is a laborious task and it can get tricky as well. Snake venom can be dangerous to handle and sometimes lead to severe side effects. Hence, this is not a completely safe practice of producing antivenom.
Snakebites kill nearly 200 people every day and experts suggest developing better ways to cure these. Recently, researchers started working on genome mapping and stem cell technology for this research. They expect that they will be able to ake antivenom in the laboratory without using real snake venom. This advancement will help them save thousands of people that die every year due to snake bites.
Researchers used stem cells to create glands that produce venom using the cells from the Cape Coral snake. They also used eight other species of snakes to produce these glands. The researchers made small-sized 3-D copies of the glands that can produce toxins called snake venom.
Hans Clevers used this technique to develop miniature forms of humans organs using stem cells for various purposes. These organs used for testing several drugs instead of using real humans in trials. Now, he is making snake glands in his laboratory that produce the toxic venom.
The antivenoms available in the market use horses instead of humans in production. Hence, they often lead to allergic reactions in humans such as itching, rash, or in some cases lead to anaphylaxis. Also, producing antivenom through this method is not cost-friendly and a single vial costs $160. The complete treatment of snake bites requires several vials of snake venom.
Another major issue is that snake venom is only available for 60% of species of venom producing snakes found around the world. Hence, this research has major benefits as it can help produce the antivenom of all kinds of snake species. Clever said that they will use this technique to produce further antivenoms for other snake species.
Snake toxin is not a single compound but a cocktail of different compounds that serve different purposes in disabling the prey. Hence, it is a challenge to synthesize an antivenom in the laboratory. Snake venom also used in the synthesis of multiple drugs for the treatment of heart conditions and high blood pressure.
Synthesizing an antivenom in the laboratory will prove a breakthrough as it is fairly a difficult process and extracting antivenom is very hectic and time-consuming. Scientists are hopeful that this progress can help thousands of individuals who die from snake bites every year. This can limit the deaths caused by the deadly snake venom in major parts of the world.