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Replacing animal use in snakebite research


Research from the Netherlands has developed an ‘organ-on-chip’ model, based on human blood vessels, to improve how scientists study the effect of snake venom on the body.

Up to 140,000 people a year are thought to die from the venom of snakebites, while 400,000 can lose a limb or become blind as a result. This is because snake venom can cause internal bleeding by damaging blood vessels and interfering with blood clotting. 

To find an effective treatment for snakebites, the study, at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), MIMETAS and Naturalis Biodiversity Center, created a 3D model of human blood vessels, where human cells are grown on small devices containing channels through which fluids flow or are confined – known as microfluidic chips – to mimic aspects of human organs.

The team tested the venom of four species of snake and identified two different mechanisms by which the blood vessels are affected – watch the video. This showed the model has advantages for venom research over existing methods.

It may therefore lead to the reduction of animal research in this field, which traditionally uses mice and cells to study the effects of venom on the body.


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