Researchers Create Snake Venom Hydrogel that Rapidly Stops Uncontrolled Bleeding

by johnsmith

The newly-developed rapid wound sealant is composed of two snake venom proteins: ecarin, which rapidly initiates blood clotting, and textilinin, which prevents blood clot breakdown.

Schematic overview of the mechanism of action of the implemented snake venom proteins. Ecarin, a procoagulant snake venom protein bypasses the activation of series of clotting factors via intrinsic and extrinsic clotting pathway and directly activates prothrombin to thrombin thereby producing a fibrin blood clot. Once the clot is formed, clot breakdown (fibrinolysis) is initiated by the activation of plasminogen mainly by tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), forming active plasmin which proteolytically acts on the fibrin blood clot. Textilinin, an antifibrinolytic snake venom protein binds to plasmin with high specificity and inhibits the action of plasmin, stabilizing the fibrin blood clot. Image credit: Yegappan et al., doi: 10.1002/adhm.202200574.

“As many as 40% of trauma-related deaths are the result of uncontrolled bleeding, and this figure is much higher when it comes to military personnel with serious bleeding in a combat zone,” said Dr. Amanda Kijas, a postdoctoral researcher with the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland.

“Nature has created the most elegant and sophisticated mechanisms, and we can repurpose them to save people from dying due to uncontrolled bleeding.”

“The research shows there is five times less blood loss, and clots form three times more quickly when the venom gel is applied, compared to the body’s natural process.”

“This even includes people with hemophilia and those using blood thinners.”

Venoms are complex mixtures of biologically active molecules, many of which are known to affect the blood clotting system via hemostatic and fibrinolytic actions.

Thrombin is a key enzyme acting in the late stages of the blood clotting cascade generated through activation of prothrombin by the prothrombinase complex.

One such snake venom protein, ecarin, is a protease, that can activate prothrombin to thrombin without the requirement of any cofactors, thus expediting the formation of fibrin blood clots.

To date ecarin has been evaluated widely for its use in the pathology blood clotting test, ‘ecarin clotting time.’

A major shortfall of currently employed hemostatic agents is the lack of antifibrinolytic agent to counter blood clot breakdown.

In their research, Dr. Kijas and colleagues demonstrated, for the first time, the use of ecarin, to rapidly initiate clotting, and textilinin, to prevent clot breakdown.

Their snake venom hydrogel remains a liquid when stored in a cool place but solidifies at body temperature to seal the wound.

“Current first aid treatment using gauze products, often did not stop bleeding in an emergency,” Dr. Kijas said.

“When a traumatic injury occurs, the complexity of the healing process overloads the body’s capacity to control the bleeding.”

“We hope this gel will accelerate the wound-healing processes needed for clotting and reducing blood flow, ultimately boosting the body’s capacity to heal large wounds.”

The team’s paper appears in the journal Advanced Health Care Materials.


Ramanathan Yegappan et al. Snake Venom Hydrogels as a Rapid Hemostatic Agent for Uncontrolled Bleeding. Advanced Health Care Materials, published online June 2, 2022; doi: 10.1002/adhm.202200574

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