There are 3,000 different species of snakes and among them almost 600 are venomous. The venom which makes these species dangerous consist of hundreds of different types of peptides, enzymes, and toxins.
There are two main types of venom namely, Hemotoxins, which target the circulatory system and prevent clotting compounds from functioning correctly and Neurotoxins that target the central nervous system and stop muscles from working.
When it comes to the snake venom research and its usage as medicine, history reveals that it started in ancient times when several civilizations started around the world. But recently scientists have found a way to reduce the toxicity of the South American rattlesnake's venom to use it as a medicine to ease chronic pain.
Snake venom research
During the time of ancient civilization, the snakes were worshipped as deities in several countries including India and Egypt. At that time ancient Egyptians believed that 'Atoum,' the snake, after leaving the primordial waters, gave the day to gods, who, in their turn, created Geb (Air) and Nout (Earth). Even in Greek civilization, Archeloos, the river god, metamorphosed from a snake to a bull and from a bull to a man.
It was mentioned by a study author P. Boquet that at that time "sick people, hoping for a cure, flocked to the temples of Asklepios at Epidaurus, Rhodes, Cnides and Cos, where snakes were carefully tended. A single touch of their tongues was supposed to give sight to the blind. The snake is, then, at the very foundation of medicine."
Painkillers from Rattlesnake Venom
Rattlesnake Venom includes a primary toxin called Crotoxin, which is already well known for being an anti-inflammatory painkiller and a muscle paralyser. But since it is extremely toxic, the scientists who conducted the new study said that they could probably make it less deadly by packing it in an SBA-15 silica nanostructure.
Based on the tests on animals, researchers are hopeful about the silica-contained crotoxin which they believe could help the millions of people living with neuropathic pain caused by damage or disease affecting the somatosensory nervous system, as usual painkillers often have no effect on this type of pain.
Pharmacologist Gisele Picolo, who is studying crotoxin since 2011 told news agency Agência FAPESP that "The results are positive in terms of its analgesic effect, but its toxicity has always been a constraint," but "using silica was a great idea. This is the first time the two molecules have been combined."
How Rattlesnake Venom can help?
As per the researchers, SBA-15 silica is a type of porous nanomaterial which can help to slow down the chemical reaction triggered by a vaccine to help to produce enough amount of antibodies.
Recent studies on mice with a condition similar to neuropathic pain revealed that once the SBA-15 silica nanostructure was added in their body, more crotoxin could be applied before side effects were noticed. Later, researchers also noticed that the pain-killing effects of crotoxin are lasting longer with the addition of SBA-15 silica.
They also recorded that the addition of the SBA-15 nanostructure wasn't changing the mechanisms crotoxin uses to relieve pain and the silica preventing the breakdown of the compound in the stomach, which means that it can be administered orally. However, even though the early signs are promising but there are lots of research to be done in this field.