Researchers turn snake venom into potentially life-saving gel

Venomous snakes have claimed countless lives, but one team of researchers from Rice University have managed to turn that venom into a life-saving gel. On Monday, the university announced that a nano fiber hydrogel infused with venom from pit vipers has been developed that quickly stops bleeding, something that could be used in situations ranging from emergencies to operating rooms.

The researchers used a hydrogel dubbed SB50, as well as a variety of venom produced by a pair of pit viper species. That venom is called batroxobin, and in this case, it was produced by genetically modified bacteria, and was then purified, ensuring other toxins didn't contaminate the substance. When this is paired with the researcher's synthetic nano-fibers, the resulting substance can be injected into a wound, where it will turn into a gel.

That gel will conform itself to the shape of the wound, and stops the bleeding in a handful of seconds or less. The researchers' tests comparing it with other similar substances found their snake venom gel to be most effective. Though it would need to get an FDA stamp of approval for use in clinical settings, the gel could one day be a vital part of certain medical procedures.

Individuals who have to take coagulants, for example, are high-risk when it comes to surgery due to excessive bleeding. With this gel, the bleeding could be stopped almost instantly, allowing live-saving surgeries to take place. It could take several years before the substance made its way into medical settings, however.

SOURCE: Rice University