It has been found that the venom of Australian snakes can rapidly arrest bleeding during major trauma and vascular surgery.The finding could eventually pave way for development of the next generation of therapeutic drugs for humans.
Taipan venom has been found to contain high amounts of a blood-clotting protein, referred to as factor X. The gene responsible for the production of factor X has been identified by Liam St Pierre, a researcher from Queensland University of Technology.
The main focus of the study was in deciphering the genetic constitution of Taipan's venom. Liam was involved in the analysis of venom of 8 of Australia's deadliest land snakes (tiger snake, Stephens banded snake, the rough-scaled snake, the mulga, the red bellied black, the common brown and coastal Taipan) regarding their use in therapeutics. Eventually, he landed up identifying genetic code responsible for production of pro-coagulant, Factor X.
'Australian snakes literally have a two-pronged attack when they bite their prey. Firstly, venom injection causes massive blood clots instantaneously followed by paralysis as a result of neurotoxins which eventually immobilize and kill the victim,' said Dr St Pierre.
Snakes over the years have developed the ability to produce a faster acting and stable form of Factor X in their venom. This is the only alternative source for generation of Factor X, excluding the mammalian livers. The mass delivery of Factor X results in inactivation of specific human systems, resulting in death. QrxPharma, a pharmaceutical company is currently considering the initiation of clinical trials of the potential 'life-saving drug'.
The study is the first extensive study conducted on genes responsible for production of snake's toxins. Factor X has the potential to be exploited in a number of novel drug therapies. Further analysis of the different kinds of snake venom could provide for new components that could be used for human drug development.