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A protein found in snake venom could prevent blood clotting and reduce tumors

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Small doses of a component found in some reptiles may be able to inhibit the formation of thrombi that cause cerebrovascular events and can even become a new option for tumor reduction.

A team of Brazilian and Belgian scientists has developed a molecule based on one of the proteins in the venom of a South American snake. This sample facilitates the modulation of blood coagulation, so it could be used in medications to treat thrombosis or in healing dressings.

Experts have synthesized the molecule using a technique that allows the modification of PEG-collinein-1, a protein extracted from the venom of the so-called southern tropical rattlesnake. It is a subspecies of the Crotalus durissus, poisonous snakes that live in central and western South America.

The technology to modify the protein of medicinal interest has made it possible for the substance to have a more stable behavior in the body and to be more resistant to the immune system, according to the Foundation for Research Support in the State of Sao Paulo (FAPESP), which has financed the project.

The technique used

“The procedure aims to keep PEG-chollinein-1 circulating through the [inside] body for a longer time, which would reduce the interval between administrations if it can be converted into medicine. In addition, it minimizes degradation by components of the human organism and improves their functional properties,” said Ernesto Lopes Pinheiro Junior, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and member of the team in charge of developing the molecule.

To modify the protein, the researcher added polyethylene glycol (PEG), a substance that helps reduce interaction with the immune system and prevents the formation of aggregates that decrease the activity of the molecule in the body.

“It is a technique widely used by the pharmaceutical industry. There are already 19 approved medicines that use it, although it is the first time it has been used in an animal toxin,” said Eliane Candiani Arantes, a researcher at USP and project advisor.

The protein extracted from snake venom is responsible for causing bleeding in those who suffer the reptile’s bite. However, it is possible to prevent the formation of thrombi that cause strokes when this component present in some reptiles is administered in small doses. In this way, when applied directly to the skin, it can clot the blood in wounds that are difficult to heal.

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