Toxic Insights: Snake Venom Research Breakthrough Using 3D Model of Imitation Blood Vessels

Fangs Biting Snake

Innovative research using 3D blood vessel models advances our understanding of snake venom’s impact, aiding in the development of better treatment methods.

A breakthrough in snake venom research uses 3D models to simulate human blood vessel response, improving treatment strategies and reducing animal testing.

A 3D model of imitation blood vessels will make it possible to see exactly how snake venom attacks blood vessels, without having to use laboratory animals. This new research model, called an organ-on-a-chip, was developed by a research team from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, MIMETAS, and Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Each year, approximately one hundred thousand people die from the effects of a snake bite. Four times as many sustain chronic injuries. Research into how snake venom works is needed to arrive at a solution, but remains difficult to implement. A research team from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), MIMETAS and Naturalis Biodiversity Center, has now proven for the first time that snake venom can be examined on 3D imitation blood vessels.

West African Carpet Viper (Echis ocellatus)

The venom of a West African carpet viper (Echis ocellatus) is one of the four venoms used to test the effect of the new 3D blood vessel model. Credit: Wolfgang Wuster


This new approach to 3D imitation blood vessels improves on traditional research methods, such as using laboratory animals or cell cultures, by mimicking human blood vessels. “The advantage of such a blood vessel model for venom research is that it takes into account several important influences that the body faces,” explains venom expert and first author of the study, Mátyás Bittenbinder of VU and Naturalis. “Like the flow of blood, or the construction and shape of a blood vessel.”

The 3D blood vessel model, called MIMETAS’ OrganoReady® Blood Vessel HUVEC, thus contributes to better understanding the damaging effects of snake venom on blood vessels and the rest of the body. “The model provides accurate insight into how toxins attack blood vessels. This knowledge will help us develop better methods to treat snake bites, while also reducing the need to do studies on mice,” says Bittenbinder.

Effect of Venom

The functioning of the blood vessel model was tested with the venom of an Indian cobra (Naja naja), West-African carpet viper (Echis ocellatus), many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) and Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica). A bite from a venomous snake often causes severe (internal) bleeding. This is because the venom attacks the circulatory system, destroying blood vessels and creating blood clots. Worldwide, scientists are searching for a solution. “If we better understand which substances are in snake venom, we will also know better how to neutralize the toxins,” Bittenbinder explains.

Global Problem

Snake bites are a humanitarian crisis that affects millions of people each year but rarely makes the news. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 140,000 people die each year from poisonous snake bites. Another 400,000 survive but become blind or lose a hand, foot, or leg as a result of a bite.

Reference: “Using organ-on-a-chip technology to study haemorrhagic activities of snake venoms on endothelial tubules” by Mátyás A. Bittenbinder, Flavio Bonanini, Dorota Kurek, Paul Vulto, Jeroen Kool and Freek J. Vonk, 4 June 2024, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-60282-5

Be the first to comment on "Toxic Insights: Snake Venom Research Breakthrough Using 3D Model of Imitation Blood Vessels"

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.