Medical Applications

One of the ultimates goal of the research done at the NNTRC is to find, isolate and clone molecules in snake venoms that can be used in medical applications. Many of the same properties in venoms that make them so damaging during envenomation, once controlled, have potential to be used in treatments for stroke, heart attacks and cancers.

Heart Attacks

Heart Disease remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women.

  • A Heart Attack results from the sudden blockage of blood flow to a portion of the heart. This prevents the heart from receiving enough oxygen, and it begins to die.
  • A heart attack most commonly happens when a blood vessel that brings blood to the heart is suddenly blocked by a blood clot.
  • Cholesterol and other fat-like substances build up along vein walls, and become coated with tissue called plaque. Eventually, these deposits can slow or stop blood flow to the heart.
  • “Clot-busting” medication can be used to treat heart attacks, and is usually effective when symptoms are acted upon quickly.
  • Snake venoms contain molecules that can interfere with the body’s clotting cascade. The snakes use these molecules to capture their prey.
  • These same molecules may also have applications in the creation of “clot-busting” medications. Venom is extracted from the snakes. Molecules are isolated and characterized to determine heir potential use in biomedical applications.

Heart Attack diagram


Strokes affect more than 700,000 Americans each years, killing about 165,000.

  • A thrombic stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in the brain and cuts off the oxygen supply to parts of the brain.
  • Brain tissue that is deprived of oxygen dies within minutes. As a result, the part of the body controlled by those brain cells cannot function properly.
  • Treatment for strokes is best when received within one hour from the onset of the stroke, which can be difficult to determine, as not everyone experiences the same symptoms.
  • The damage done by a stroke is permanent. Medicine can only be prescribed to prevent another stroke. Certain snake venoms contain Fibrinolase. Accord Medicine contains Fibrinolase, which can remove the clot.
  • Venom is extracted from the snakes.
  • The Fibrinolase is isolated.

Stroke diagram


Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030

  • Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide: it accounted for 7.4 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2004. — World Health Organization
  • Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year.
  • The most frequent types of cancer differ between men and women.
  • Cancer arises from a change in one single cell. The change may be started by external agents and inherited genetic factors.
  • Integrins are molecules on all cell surfaces
  • Integrins affect cell to cell interactions, cell to matrix interaction, and signal transduction
  • Disintegrins prevent binding of matrix proteins to integrins
  • Disintegrin is an example of platelet aggregation inhibitors Inhibition of platelet aggregation could help stop cancer cells from binding to new locations in the body
  • Several disintegrins have been found in snake venoms, and are being characterized, purified and cloned for use in drug discovery

This page was last updated on: February 7, 2019