Ever see a snake bite in a movie and wonder what’s going on in that cowboy/adventurer/explorer’s body as they race to procure their anti-venom in time? This video shows what just one drop of Russell’s Viper venom does to human blood. Note: This video might be a little scary for younger kids so parents might want to take a look first. Thanks goodness none of the snakes at The Brooklyn Children’s Museum are venomous- we’d never mix toxic fangs with little children! However, we were surprised to find that these snakes may do just as much good as harm for humanity.
Catch those fleshy fangs in the video? Did you know that some snake fangs are so long, they fold back into the snake’s mouth when the snake isn’t striking? Fangs are hollow and connected to two sacs behind the snake’s eyes. When a venous snake strikes, the fangs deliver a large dose of venom to the unlucky prey.
As it turns out, the scary properties of snake venom can also have some life saving medicinal uses. Viper snake venom is used to test for certain blood diseases. Some diseases make people prone to excessive bleeding – their blood is missing the protein that keeps it from clotting or forming scabs. If a drop of snake venom was dropped in a beaker of their blood (like in the above video), their blood would not coagulate into a solid clump in the same way. A drop of viper venom can be used to stop excessive bleeding during surgery or after a major trauma, too!
Alternatively, Malayan Pit Viper venom thins the blood and can be used to break up blood clots in stroke victims. When a blood clot forms in the brain and causes a stroke, doctors try to dissolve the clot and increase blood flow to the brain before more neurons are lost, this can reverse some of the effects of the stroke.
Interestingly, the venom of other snakes like the African mamba affects the nervous system instead of blood and tissues. The venom travels through our blood to the brain where it blocks the chemical signals involved in our most basic human functions- like breathing and circulation. These are the same chemical signals that get interrupted in disorders like asthma, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. If researchers can break the code of mamba venom, they may understand more about these disorders and come closer to the cures.