Nanoscience Used to Create Universal Antivenom for Snake Bites

Image: Greg Schechter/Flickr

Breakthrough utilization of nanoparticles could counteract venom from any kind of snake — and save thousands of lives.

Up until recently, the development of antivenom was costly, time consuming, and only marginally effective in treating snake bites on a large scale. Due to the production of individual compounds of venom by different species of snakes, specific antivenoms must be developed in order to target each particular agent. Recent research using combinations of nanoparticles could broaden the range of antivenoms to provide a cheaper and superior synthetic alternative to conventional methods.

Traditional antivenoms are created using the antibodies from an affected animal’s bloodstream, a process requiring live animals, expensive technology, and large quantities of time. While the majority of people bitten by snakes reside in rural areas, the added necessity of refrigeration makes the utilization of current therapies ineffective on a large scale.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

Research stemming from the success of nanoparticles used to remove a toxin called melittin from a bee’s bloodstream is being utilized in the development of a more inclusive venom-binding compound.

Scientists are honing in on PLA2 proteins which are the most commonly found molecules in snake venom. The theory is to impart similar nanoparticles into an organism’s bloodstream in order to bind to these PLA2 proteins and render them ineffective. Extensive experimenting incorporating different types of polymers and chemical chains resulted in a promising group of nanoparticles that bound to a wide variety of proteins, and after final chemical tweaking, most tightly to PLA2 molecules.

While the test tube results are promising, the animal trials are yet to begin, but scientists are thoroughly pleased with this breakthrough development.