New Stroke Drug Contains Actual Snake Venom
Spring is here, but it really hasn’t felt like it here in West Virginia, until just recently. We’ve had temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s with a mix of rain and snow. But now as the temperatures finally rise, I know the outdoors await me, which in some ways I dread. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beauty of Spring, but ever since I bought my house three years ago, springtime is work time.
I fell in love with my house because of all the flower gardens. In fact, the home was listed on a local garden tour. I find out fast, I don’t have the time to keep these beautiful gardens up. The reason I bring all this up, you might be wondering, is snakes I live on a hillside (no short abundance of these in West Virginia) and while many of my neighbors have encountered these slimy creatures while weeding their gardens, I luckily have not. The snakes are typically not of the poisonous variety, but they do gross me out.
However, I’ve learned something interesting lately about these reptiles. Not only that they are misunderstood, but also could help in the treatment of stroke. I know, it sounds crazy. But, doctors who attended the International Stroke Conference in Orlando back in February learned a new drug made from snake venom could help save lives. Neurobiological Technologies is using the blood-thinning snake venom to make a new anti-stroke drug called Viprinex.
Clinical trials are underway where tests are being conducted from a Malayan pit viper. Researchers say an extract from the venom may be a highly effective clot buster. So far, study results show the venom reduces a protein in the blood that contributes to blood clots.
Currently there is just one clot-busting drug available for stroke. It’s tPA, the drug that doctors used on me back in 2001. It broke up a blood clot that doctors found behind my left ear. I was lucky to receive this medication, because it’s only offered to patients within the first three hours of having a stroke.
Researchers say Viprinex would buy time for doctors because it can break up clots for up to six hours. This drug is in the late-stage human testing at dozens of sites around the country. More studies are needed to prove its safety. If all goes well, the company hopes to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2008.
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Deanne Stein wrote about heart disease as a patient expert for HealthCentral.