Researchers from the University of California-Irvine claimed that they have developed a cheaper and more effective way of neutralizing deadly snake venom.
Their invention, described in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, involve nanoparticles on a synthesized material. The researchers observed that their new material was able to absorbed and permanently sequester the snake venom, preventing it from doing any harm.
"Current anti-venom is very specific to certain snake types," said Jeffrey O'Brien, a doctoral student at UC Irvine and lead author of the study, in a press release. "Ours seems to show broad-spectrum ability to stop cell destruction across species on many continents, and that is quite a big deal."
For their invention, dubbed as "nanodote," the researchers synthesized a polymer nanogel material. This material has the ability to bind to several key proteins, keeping them from bursting cell membranes and causing widespread destruction.
O'Brien first observed the potential of nanodotes when the human serum in the test tubes remained clear after being laced with snake venom. Typically, the human serum would turn to scarlet due to the venom's ability to rupture red blood cells.
Aside from snake venom, the researchers found that their nanodote may also slow or stop scorpion and spider bite infections. The researchers have a patent pending for their invention. They are also waiting for public or private funding to push the nanodotes into clinical trials and product development.
About 4.5 million people in the world are bitten by snake annually, Out of those, 2.7 million suffer from crippling injuries and more than 100,000 people die. Most of the victims of snake bites were farmers and children in poor, rural areas of India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the rarity of snakebites in the United States, about five a year, the researchers noted that many US military service men were stationed in the tropics and sub-Saharan Africa.
During their active military duty, these men were far from hospitals and only accompanied by a medic with a bag pack. Due to this, the researchers emphasized the need for a lightweight material that could effectively prevent or slow the spread of venom.
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