Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Venom Trade, Cont’d

September 18th, 2009 · No Comments

In yesterday’s post on Pakistan’s troubled system of snake-venom collection, we opined that technology seemed to have changed the field little. But if we’d read the latest issue of the journal Toxicon, we wouldn’t have been so quick to make such blanket claims. Because as it turns out, a Florida cottonmouth researchers are blazing trails:

Scientists used a portable nerve stimulator to extract venom from anesthetized cottonmouths, producing more consistent extraction results and greater amounts of venom than the traditional “milking” technique.

The nerve stimulator is used in human anesthesia to measure the effect of muscle relaxants.

“It delivers a series of electric stimuli, of very low voltage and amperage, and causes no pain or tissue injury,” Heard said. “The electrodes are placed behind the eye, across the area of the venom gland. The nerve stimulator sends a current across the gland, causing reflex contraction and expulsion of the venom.”

The technique allows collection from snakes that might not otherwise give up their venom, which is an essential in the process of creating antivenins for victims of snake bite, Heard said.

“The stimulator is battery-powered and relatively inexpensive,” he said. “In addition, the anesthetic we used, known as propofol, can easily be transported.”

Yes, they have the cottonmouths on the same anesthetic that played a key role in robbing the Earth of Michael Jackson’s immense talents. Which for some strange reason makes us miss Captain Eo all the more.

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