Venom Without the Snake – Hurray – Here’s Why #medicine #wildlife #sciences

Collecting venom from a snake: milking a snake

Not my hands! Collecting venom is the first step in producing anti-venom. Would you want to do this, or whir some blobs of tissue in a blender?

I live with rattlesnakes, and now there’s some good news related to that. Keep reading.

On my New Mexico ridgetop, on the broken limestone, I feed the birds. That means I also feed the rodents, and that means I’ve got perfect snake habitat. Why would a snake crawl all the way up here to hunt a meal? I have no idea, but every year or two I spot one or two rattlers.

My doctor friends tell me our blacktails only inject venom in about half their bites to humans. (They also tell me most bites involve young men and alcohol. Sometimes being an old woman pays off! Furthermore, no glass of wine ever induced me to turn over rocks looking for snakes.)

All Americans live with rattlesnakes. “Rattlesnakes are native to the Americas, living in diverse habitats from southwestern Canada to central Argentina… 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, with about five deaths.” Wikipedia

Neither New Mexico nor the rattlesnake accounts for the majority of venomous bites, but I’d still like to know that my local ER has serum available. And they don’t. In America and world-wide, there’s a shortage for all species of vemonous snakes.

Which brings me to the good news: venom can be produced in the lab. That’s the first step in anti-venom production. Custom grown, in-vitro snake glands without the snake.

We have PhD students and stem cells to thank:

If they had told Clevers about their project before they started, he would have told them that it was extremely unlikely to work. But it did… They’ve grown organoids from eight different species, all sourced as eggs from breeders or as euthanized individuals from zoos. The Atlantic

This is the first advance in production of anti-venom in a hundred years, and, since snake bites globally kill 100,000 people every year, this could be a big deal.

The PhD students are moving on. They want to grow crocodile-tear-glands! But since the market for cheap anti-venom is global, I hope the right pharmaceutical company picks this up. There’s finally a way to make money from treating snake bite and – oh, yeah – save lives too.


5 thoughts on “Venom Without the Snake – Hurray – Here’s Why #medicine #wildlife #sciences

  1. This is a good news story for sure. Humans seem too (on average) have an inborn fear to snakes. I will not try to use this trait to prove I am human. Every year I start the the heating season with wood that is stacked on metal racks that are about a foot off the ground. I get about a cord of wood on 4 of these racks. The wood is covered with a tarp some time in late July. Every year there are some snake skins in the pile do too molting. This year however the number of skins was amazing, and it might also explain where the chipmunks went.

    Liked by 2 people

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