Written and Media by Momoka Murata.
Snake oil means something fake or phony. But we actually do get something of value from snakes: particularly poisonous ones. You see, while snakes can kill, they can also be helpful for healing.
What about them is helpful? Their poison.
Have you ever heard of Aggrastat? It is a drug that prevents the clumping together of blood platelets. How about Intergrillin? It is a heart medicine. Both of them were developed through medical research using snake venom.
While we usually use the term “poisonous snake”, there are actually two categories – poisonous and venomous. Venoms enter the blood stream through a bite in a vein. Poisons work slower, penetrating from outside.
It should also be noted that there are many other venomous and poisonous creatures besides snakes. There would include spiders, jellyfish, and some types of lizards.
The bite of rattlesnakes, cobras and pit vipers cause immediate swelling and burning pain at the bite site. This is followed by a severe drop in blood pressure of paralysis, causing the victim to collapse and have extensive bleeding everywhere in their body. Without treatment, the victim will most likely die.
So why would a medical researcher even want to go near animals like poisonous snakes? Because it is thought that their venom may be the key to finding better treatments for high blood pressure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Medicines made from snake venom protein have been used since 1998 to treat people having minor heart attacks or those with chest pains that could be heart attack-related. Brazilian and British researchers have discovered that venom protein blocks the action of a compound called angiotensin-converting enzyme, which the body uses to keep blood pressure at the right level.
An article published in 2010, Haditoxin component was discovered from a venomous snake at a lab at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Nirthanan described unique structures found in haditoxoin that was expected to have unique pharmacological properties. “This toxin is like a conjoined twin. It is a relatively large complex made up of two identical protein molecules known as three-finger toxins linked together.”
“We know that the family of three-finger toxins display diverse biological actions on the human nervous system, cardiovascular system, and blood clotting. Some have directly led to the development of compounds with potent analgesic and blood pressure reducing properties – so it is likely that haditoxin in its ‘conjoined twin’ state or as individual
components will offer us more novel insights,” he said.
Haditoxin may become the savior for the future of technology in the medical industry.
Medical researchers continue to find new uses for venom, from treating snake bites to cancer treatment to prevention of blood clots. The possibilities seem endless. I have great admiration for both the people who do this research and those who risk their own lives and health to obtain the venom need for the research.