University of Reading: Snakebite Victims May Benefit From Improved Treatments To Reverse Muscle Damage And Prevent Permanent Disabilities

Snakebite victims may benefit from repurposing existing drugs to repair muscle damage thanks to new research.

An international research team has been awarded £504,000 of Medical Research Council funding to significantly advance research into new treatments to address the neglected issue of venomous snakebites. This issue predominantly affects rural communities in developing countries.

The latest funding will enable the team to look at the possibility of using FDA-approved drugs used to treat other diseases, and human toxin-specific antibodies in neutralising major venom toxins during venom induced muscle damage in mice. The team will also look at potential regenerative medicine approaches (that are used to treat/control various muscle and bone diseases) in inducing muscle growth in venom damaged muscle.

The team, led by Professor Sakthi Vaiyapuri together with Professor Ketan Patel (School of Biological Sciences) from the University of Reading, Professor Andreas Laustsen (Technical University of Denmark) and Mr Steve Trim (Venomtech Limited) will be building on existing research which has found that the prolonged actions of venom toxins in the affected muscle induces continuous damage and accumulation of fat, and thereby prevent muscle regrowth.

Prof Sakthi Vaiyapuri, a Professor in Cardiovascular and Venom Pharmacology at the University of Reading, said:

“For the last five years, as one of very few groups researching on venoms in the UK, we have been investigating the mechanisms in which snake venoms cause muscle damage. We have developed tools, skills and collaborations with leading scientists who research venoms and clinicians who treat snakebite victims in India to perform cutting-edge research in this area.

“We know that it is essential to simultaneously block the venom toxins and induce muscle growth following a snakebite. Since antivenoms are not useful in this scenario, we will look at whether specific existing FDA approved drugs, next generation recombinant antivenoms and regenerative medicine approaches can stop or even reverse snakebite-induced muscle damage in order to prevent snakebite-induced permanent disabilities.

“Snakebites are recognised by the WHO as a high priority neglected health issue, leaving nearly half a million people permanently disabled largely as a result of viper bites and causing 140,000 fatalities each year.”

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