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Snake Care

How snake bites damage muscle tissue

29 March 2019

Snake Care

Lots of people are scared of snakes. For those of us in the UK, it’s a phobia unlikely to pose much practical threat, but around the world there are five million bites each year. Permanent muscle damage is one possible consequence of a bite, but the precise mechanism of this damage is poorly understood. To investigate, researchers purified one harmful component of viper venom: metalloproteases. To see how they causes lasting problems, they observed how muscle structure changes in the days after a bite. They found that viper venom damages structural scaffold proteins around the bite, such as collagen (red in undamaged mouse muscle, left, and deteriorating muscle 10 days after a simulated bite, right) and laminin (green). With these supporting structures impaired, future recovery and growth was halted. Studies like this aim to ultimately improve treatments and reduce the threat of snakes, wherever you live.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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