Scientists discover 'clot-busting' properties in snake venom

Scientists discover 'clot-busting'  properties in snake venom

Scientists from Tezpur University in Assam and University of Northern Colorado in the USA have discovered that venom from India’s most common poisonous snake, the Russel’s Viper, contains a chemical that has therapeutic potential to act as a “clot-busting drug” for heart patients.

From the poison, scientists have isolated a protein called Russelobin, which has high potential to come up as a new drug for cardiovascular diseases.

Russell’s viper is one of the deadliest venomous snakes prevalent in at least 10 south-east Asian countries including India. It is distributed in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Bengal and may be in lower part of Assam.

One of the four common snakes of India, the other three being the Cobra, Krait and Saw Scaled Viper, Rusell’s Viper is responsible for maximum number of snakebite cases in the country.

Snake venom is a rich source of bioactive molecules, and several venom-derived proteins have entered clinical trials for use in ischemic disorders. 

However, late-stage failure of a recent drug candidate due to low efficacy in animal trials have prompted researchers to look for new sources of drug candidates capable of dissolving blood clots.

Scientists have found therapeutic potential in Russelobin, a protein isolated from the Russell’s Viper venom. The compound was found safe after mice testing.

“Many components in snake venom are non-toxic when applied alone, but they become lethal when they act together in a synergistic way,” Ashish Kumar Mukherjee, lead author of the study from Tezpur University told Deccan Herald.

The discovery of a thrombin like protein that can dissolve blood clots will appear in the journal Biochemica et Biophysica Acta. Even though there are several clot-busting drugs like streptokinase or plasminogen activator, they have several side effects. A reason why newer and safer agents are being explored.

As a venom, Russell’s Viper poison dilutes the blood to such an extent that every organ starts leaking out blood. The same property is now being harnessed in a controlled way to dissolve life-threatening clots inside blood vessels.

There are several complications associated with many of the currently available clot-bursting drugs including bacterial derived plasminogen activators, streptokinase and urokinase. 

In addition, gastrointestinal bleeding is another commonly observed complication in many patients after treatment with these clot-busting drugs.
“We are now about to start another round of animal trial to see usefulness of Russelobin as a thrombolytic agent,” Mukherjee said.

Though the actual medicine is still years away, scientists are hopeful because of its medicinal properties. 

After the discovery of bradykinin-potentiating peptides (BPPs), from brazilian snake venom, which led to the development of life-saving, anti-hypertensive drugs such as Captopril and Enalapril, several new drugs from snake venom are now under pipeline for clinical trials.

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