Stories tagged snake venom

Sep
10
2008

A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.
A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.Courtesy StevenM_61
This truly is a season to remember. Scientific endeavors are being undertaken that will live on for a hundred generations in human memory.

Snake venom facial cream, for instance, is now for sale in London department stores.

If you were concerned that your face wasn’t feeling quite envenomated enough (and why would I even write “if”?), give your hideous frown lines and forehead creases a much needed rest. Science has synthesized the venom of the Asian temple viper, and put it into cream form. And, Science’s work done, Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly stands by the product.

According to the manufacturers, the product gives temporary, Botox-like results by “stunning” the skin in a way “similar to a snake bite.” Hmm. Interesting. Let’s look beyond my initial reaction to the prospect of getting bit in the face by a snake (which is, to be clear, a resounding “Yes!”)

The temple viper is named so for its high population in the Temple of the Azure cloud in Malaysia. It is a species of pit viper, and so a cousin to American rattlesnakes. The venom of the temple viper is a hemotoxin, and affects blood and muscle tissue (as opposed to the faster acting neurotoxins present in some snake venom, which affect the nervous tissue). Hemotoxins contain enzymes that destroy red blood cells, and cause general havoc in nearby organ and tissues. Prey killed with hemotoxic venom is easier for snakes to digest, because it tends to break down the tissue in the region of the bite. This means that, even if a victim is not killed by a bite, it is possible to lose entire limbs to necrosis from hemotoxins.

But I hear that it is positively delightful when applied to the face. Pots of snake science are now available for $105 at Selfridges department store in London.

Oh, also, the Large Hadron Collider was turned on today. Apparently that’s sort of a big deal in science too. But it doesn’t do anything for crow’s feet.

Sep
22
2007

A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing.  (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing. (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Portland man recently placed a sober rattlesnake into his drunken mouth, and was bitten on the tongue. This brings the universal tally of people bitten on the tongue by rattlesnakes up to four (the other three being, of course, the man who discovered rattlesnakes; herpetologist and pioneer in ethnomedicine, Jeannette San Pierre; and Sammy Hagar).

In an effort tom impress his ex-girlfriend, reptile enthusiast Matt Wilkinson placed the head of a 20-inch rattlesnake in his mouth at a friend’s barbeque. He had found the snake beside the highway three weeks earlier, and believed at the time that it would not harm him because it was “a nice snake.” His ex apparently wouldn’t take his word for it, and so he attempted to prove her wrong.

Soon after this Wilkinson was near death, with his tongue so swollen that it completely blocked his throat. After his ex-girlfriend drove him to the hospital (that’s the kind of ex-girlfriend I want) doctors cut a hole in his neck so he could breath, and then administered an antivenin.

Where’s the science here, you ask (this is a science blog, after all)?
Well, the snake – snakes are science. And cutting a hole in Matt’s neck – that’s probably science too. And there are a few science-related lessons to be gained here:
1) Don’t put anything you find beside the highway into your mouth, especially if it’s a rattlesnake.
2) Rattlesnakes don’t like to feel like they are being eaten, and will defend themselves if the situation arises.
3) It takes six beers and “a mixture of stupid stuff” to get a 23-year-old male to reach snake-eating levels of drunkenness.
4) Ex-girlfriends can still be an asset in assuring that you pass on your genes.

The story did not say what happened to the snake.

Aug
13
2007

Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Just like Indiana Jones, I’m not too keen on snakes, especially the venomous ones. Now we snake-a-phobes have one more thing to worry about: dead snakes.

Last week a rural Washington state man was bitten by the decapitated head of a rattlesnake. After finding the five-foot snake in the grass while feeding his horses, the man immobilized the snake with a pipe and whacked off its head with a shovel. End of story, right?

Oh no. When he reached down to pick up the snake, the severed head twisted around and bit the guy’s finger. It took about 10 minutes for him to get to the nearby hospital where anti-venom shots were given to him just as his tongue was starting to swell.

I can hear you scoffing: “Urban legend.” But a wildlife biologist in Washington said that it’s possible that the snake’s heat-seeking abilities may still have been intact, or that the snake’s reflexes were still working despite the severing.