Vampire bat saliva breaks up blood clots

Draculin is an anti-coagulant discovered in the 1990s. A new national study is trying to prove that such bat-inspired drugs is clinically beneficial for human stroke patients.

Vampire bats. Draculin.
[Tell me your best fang joke.]

A new national study is underway to see if a compound extracted from their saliva can actually help patients survive a stroke.

Someone in the US suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. Right now, doctors only have a 3-hour window to treat stroke patients before blood clots clog blood vessels in the brain.

Blocking blood and oxygen flow can cause permanent brain damage, paralysis, speech problems, and even death. A blood-clot buster called rt-PA has to be administered during those 3 hours or else it would cause brain damage.

Lo and behold, vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) saliva could extend that treatment window, reducing the severity of a stroke.

Doctors at Ohio State University hope to extend it up to 9 hours by using a chemical isolated from vampire bat saliva that can quickly dissolve clots.

Vampire bats feed off the blood of their prey, and their little trick for keeping the blood thin and flowing is an anti-coagulant in their bite. It’s an enzyme called desmoteplase (DSPA).

“By giving stroke patients just enough of the dose, it would slice right through the clot, without having you bleed to death in the process,” says lead researcher, OSU's Michel Torbey.

Scientists discovered the medicinally promising bat compound back in 1998. They named it… Draculin.

In 2003, an Australian team injected mouse brains with DSPA and rt-PA. According to their report in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, the clot-busting DSPA could help more patients than the FDA-approved rt-PA.

In 2006, OSU scientists launched a proof-of-concept study that showed how medicine derived from the saliva was safe and well tolerated by human patients.

Now, in this new phase 2 study involving hospitals around the country, researchers want to see if bat saliva-inspired medications actually afford doctors more time to treat strokes and help with human patient outcomes.

Image: Ohio State University

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com