New antivenom nanogel neutralizes snake bites, might work for spiders & scorpions too

snake antivenom
Steve Zylius / UCI
Although snakebites only account for about five deaths per year the United States, their global impact is much more severe. About 421,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year and some 20,000 of those bitten die, according to conservative estimates made in a 2008 study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. The reason deaths are so low in the U.S. is largely due to adequate access to antivenom, which is not as available in poor, developing regions.

But new research from a team of chemists at the University of California, Irvine suggests antivenom can be fabricated more easily and cheaply than it is in conventional methods, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives each year. The team has published a paper detailing the study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“Our antidote is prepared in the chemistry laboratory,” Ken Shea, senior author of the study, told Digital Trends. “It is not biological.”

Traditionally, antidotes are produced by injecting venom into large mammals, such as horses, and letting the animal build up antibodies to fight off the toxins. After a few weeks, the animal’s blood is collected, isolated, and purified before being shipped off to regions that can afford it.

“It is a lengthy and expensive process and it is species specific,” Shea explained. “Our materials have the potential to function across multiple species of snakes and can be produced without biological contamination.”

Together with doctoral student and lead author Jeffrey O’Brien, Shea created a polymer nanogel material that can bind to certain protein toxins that exist in such snakes as cobras and pit vipers. By binding to these proteins, the nanogel keeps them from rupturing red blood cells. The treatment costs “pennies on the dollar,” compared to existing treatments, according to Shea.

The chemists have also begun testing similar antidotes against spider and scorpion venom, which they said has returned promising results. They’re now looking to conduct clinical trials.

Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Emerging Tech

A new way to ‘freeze’ water could help transform organ preservation

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a way of keeping water as a liquid at temperatures far below freezing. Here's why that could help transform organ preservation.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (August 2018)

Prime Video gives subscribers access to a host of great movies, but sifting through the massive library isn't easy. Lucky for you, we've sorted the wheat from the chaff. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in August 2018, from ‘Blue Valentine’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Emerging Tech

Stanford A.I. can realistically score computer animations just by watching them

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a computer system that’s able to synthesize realistic sounds for 3D animation, based entirely on its knowledge about the physical world.

You don’t need to go autonomous to make trucking safer

Long haul truckers are very good at their jobs, but they face long hours and unpredictable conditions. Autonomous tech may be coming, but here’s how lidar technology companies are working to enhance trucking safety today.
Emerging Tech

No keyboard? No problem. Masterkey will project you a virtual one to type on

Miss having a physical keyboard when you're out and about? Wish you could have a mobile display bigger than your smartphone can offer? Masterkey 4.0 is a wireless projector that promises to help.
Emerging Tech

Be a master of your own ever-changing ‘galaxy’ with this kinetic wall art

Art Machine is a stunning work of kinetic art that looks like a continuously swirling galaxy or turbulent weather formation viewed through a ship's porthole. Check it out in all its glory.
Emerging Tech

Omega Centauri hosts 10 million stars and probably not an ounce of life

Omega Centauri is about 16,000 light years away, making it visible to the naked eye. And it contains some 10 million stars, making it the largest globular cluster in the Milky Way. But it probably doesn't have an ounce of life.
Emerging Tech

The world’s first practical quantum computer has cash and a timeline

The dream of building a practical quantum computer could be closer than ever, thanks to a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to seven universities around the United States.
Emerging Tech

Forget flying cars: This shoe-tying robot is proof that the future is here

Engineering students from the University of California, Davis, recently built a robot whose sole personality in life is to tie shoelaces. It cost them under $600 to do it as well!
Emerging Tech

Bizarre stork robot uses a drone to compensate for its weak, twig-like legs

Developed by engineers from Japan’s University of Tokyo, Aerial Biped is a robot whose top half is comprised of a flying quadrotor UAV that's rooted to the ground by thin stork-like legs.
Emerging Tech

A treasure trove of 3D scientific specimens is now free to see online

Thanks to the California Academy of Sciences, you can access more than 700 scientific specimens and artifacts from the world-class collection via the online 3D and virtual reality platform Sketchfab.