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Rattlesnake venom is used in research to fight tumors

Publicado em 23 novembro 2021

A group of Brazilian and Belgian scientists got together to develop the PEG-collinein-1 molecule, created from material extracted from rattlesnake snake venom. Researchers believe the compound is able to modulate blood clotting and may help with healing and even cancer drug development.

“The technique aims to keep PEG-cholinein-1 circulating in the body for longer, which can reduce the interval between administrations if it becomes a drug. Furthermore, it reduces degradation by components of the human organism and improves its functional properties”, explains Ernesto Lopes Pinheiro-Júnior, first author of the article.

Pinheiro-Júnior carried out the research during his doctorate at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo (FCFRP-USP), currently he is continuing his research at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

“Pegylation is quite common in the pharmaceutical industry. There are 19 drugs that use the technique already approved. This is the first time, however, that the method has been used on an animal toxin, in its recombinant form. [produzida em laboratório por um fungo geneticamente modificado]”, completes Eliane Candiani Arantes, professor at FCFRP-USP and supervisor of the study.

Rattlesnake poison against diseases

The venom is extracted from the rattlesnake species Crotalus durissus collilineatus. In the snake, the molecule taken from the venom helps to cause bleeding in the person bitten. However, if isolated and administered in small doses, however, it can prevent the formation of thrombi that cause stroke, for example.

If used in applications directly on the skin, collinein-1 can have the opposite effect, clotting the blood in wounds that are difficult to heal. Therefore, it also has great potential for use in dressings.

The main difficulty here would be to get the poison in sufficient amounts to carry out treatments with the molecule. Therefore, a technique capable of cloning the sample is being used. “This strategy is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. Part of the insulin produced today, for example, comes from yeasts that produce this human protein”, says Boldrini-França, who is currently doing postdoctoral studies at the University of Vila Velha (UVV), in Espírito Santo.

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In addition, the protein created from extracting the rattlesnake’s venom has also been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. “It was unlikely to work, since collinein-1 is considered a large protein and we usually test smaller molecules in the so-called ion channels, which are the targets of some cancer drugs”, adds Arantes.

The recombinant protein acted on a certain type of potassium channel present in a breast tumor strain, reducing its viability without affecting healthy tissue. “In many cases, pegylation is capable of taking a molecule from the laboratory bench to industry. That’s what we want now”, concludes Pinheiro-Junior. Research results were published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules.

Via FAPESP Agency

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