Stopping a wound from excessive bleeding is a top priority on the battlefield and in an operating room. But sometimes, the wound is too big or the patient is on a blood thinner for medical reasons, which makes clotting during an operation difficult.
Now chemists at Rice University have a found a way to infuse a gel with snake venom and use it stop bleeding.
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"It's interesting that you can take something so deadly and turn it into something that has the potential to save lives," Rice University chemist Jeffrey Hartgerink said in a press release.
The snake venom, called batroxobin, comes from two species of South American pit viper and has been by genetically modified and then purified, to avoid any risk of contamination.
Thanks to work by others scientists dating back to the 1930s, the Rice chemists knew that batroxobin encouraged blood to clot. But it hadn't been used to directly treat wounds or reduce bleeding in patients who take blood thinners.
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Hartgerink and his team combined batroxobin with synthetic, self-assembling nanofibers to make a liquid could be injected at the site of the wound. Once injected, the liquid turned into a gel they called SB50 and stopped the bleeding within seconds.
In fact, in laboratory experiments, venom gel stopped a wound from bleeding in as little as six seconds -- and it kept the area sealed, even if the scientists prodded the wound to encourage it to reopen.
"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," Hartgerink said.
Although the batroxobin is FDA-approved, the SB50 gel is not and it could take several years of additional testing before it gains approval.
The team published their results in this week's ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.
via Rice University