Nav: Home

A synthetic biology approach for a new antidote to coral snake venom

March 03, 2016

Coral snake venom carries significant neurotoxicity and human injuries can be severe or even lethal. Despite this, antivenom treatments are scarce due to challenges collecting adequate amounts of venom needed to produce anti-elapidic serum. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases highlights exciting new research from the Butantan Institute in Brazil using synthetically designed DNA to produce coral-snake antivenom.

Currently, coral snake antivenom is produced by immunizing horses with the venom and collecting the anti-elapidic serum produced. Despite its high toxicity, venom yield from coral snakes is very low, and the snakes are difficult to keep in captivity. Since 2003, the only FDA-approved coral snake antivenom has been discontinued, leading to patients being hospitalized for treatment while the effects of the venom wear off. A new approach is therefore urgently needed to produce antivenom more efficiently and cheaply.

The researchers identified 5 toxins within the snake venom and used a technique called SPOT-synthesis to identify the sections of the toxin (epitopes) that are recognized by coral snake antivenom antibodies. They then designed two DNA strings that coded for these epitopes and used them to genetically immunize different groups of mice.

The serum collected from the animals, which contained antibodies to the five toxins, was then tested for antivenom capabilities - by mixing with coral snake venom before being administered to healthy mice - and was found to neutralize venom by 40%. To improve on this result, the researchers used recombinant DNA techniques to generate purified recombinant proteins from the designed multiepitope DNA strings, and gave the mice a series of protein booster shots to increase their immune response. This approach resulted in a final serum with 60% neutralization against coral snake venom.

Although the ideal of 100% neutralization was not met, this approach is a fascinating new response to the challenge of reducing stocks of coral snake antivenom. The use of synthetic DNA bypasses the need to capture and keep snakes, a difficult and expensive process. "The fact that a neutralization of 100% could not be observed does not disqualify this approach as a promising alternative method for the development of an anti-elapidic antiserum," explains Dr Ramos, former postdoctoral fellow at Butantan Institute. "It is worth noting that all the neutralization capabilities observed in this work were, as expected, intimately related to the antibody titres." Techniques to increase the yield of antibodies are likely to lead to even higher neutralization rates, producing a much-needed readily available source of coral snake antivenom.
-end-
Please contact plosntds@plos.org if you would like more information about our content and specific topics of interest.

All works published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available. Use this URL in your coverage to provide readers access to the paper upon publication:

http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004484 (Link goes live upon article publication)

Contact: Henrique Roman Ramos, +55 11 981476230, ramoshr@me.com

Funding: PLH's lab is supported by FAPESP, CNPq and Fundação Butantan grants. HRR's was supported by a FAPESP PostDoc Scholarship (# 09/10328-8). CCO's lab is supported by CAPES, CNPq and FAPEMIG grants. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

About PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to the pathology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and control of the neglected tropical diseases, as well as public policy relevant to this group of diseases. All works published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License, and copyright is retained by the authors.

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.

Media Permissions

PLOS Journals publish under a Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/), which permits free reuse of all materials published with the article, so long as the work is cited (e.g., Kaltenbach LS et al. (2007) Huntington Interacting Proteins Are Genetic Modifiers of Neurodegeneration. PLOS Genet 3(5): e82. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030082). No prior permission is required from the authors or publisher. For queries about the license, please contact the relative journal contact indicated here: http://www.plos.org/journals/embargopolicy.php

PLOS

Related Antibodies Articles:

Antibodies could provide new treatment for OCD
Mental health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder could be treated in a new way using drugs that target the immune system, research suggests.
Antibodies in the brain trigger epilepsy
Certain forms of epilepsy are accompanied by inflammation of important brain regions.
Fatal overproduction of antibodies
Bone marrow plasma cells produce antibodies. These comprise two long and two short protein chains.
Antibodies: the body's own antidepressants
Antibodies can be a blessing or a curse to the brain -- it all depends on their concentration.
Antibodies gather and form a circle for defensive attack
Antibodies play a crucial role in our immune system by linking antigen recognition with complement activation for attacking foreign cells.
Hiring antibodies as nanotechnology builders
Researchers at the University of Rome Tor Vergata recruit antibodies as molecular builders to assemble nanoscale structures made of synthetic DNA.
Search for the source of antibodies would help treat allergies
Researchers of Sechenov University together with their colleagues from Russia and Austria summarised everything known about cells producing group E antibodies.
Improving research with more effective antibodies
A new study points to the need for better antibody validation, and outlines a process that other labs can use to make sure the antibodies they work with function properly.
How to enable light to switch on and off therapeutic antibodies
IBS researchers have developed a new biological tool that activates antibody fragments via a blue light.
Ebola antibodies at work
Scientists in Israel and Germany show, on the molecular level, how an experimental vaccine offers long-term protection against the disease.
More Antibodies News and Antibodies Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.