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Stroke Treatment Being Developed From Vampire Bat Saliva

Stroke Treatment Being Developed From Vampire Bat Saliva

Ancient ill omens, terrifying movie monsters, sparkly young adult romance — the vampire bat has inspired many horrors thanks to its blood-sucking diet. Now, the macabre nocturnal creatures may prove beneficial to more than just pop culture. TIME.com reports that an enzyme in vampire bat saliva could be a powerful stroke treatment.

The wryly named Draculin is a drug being developed from the enzyme desmoteplase, or DSPA, a natural blood thinner used by the bats to increase their target’s blood flow. Researchers have found that DSPA is as effective, if not more so, than the current blood clot treatment used in patients suffering an ischemic stroke.

Ischemic strokes account for 87% of strokes each year in the United States, affecting patients by clogging blood vessels in the brain and cutting off vital blood and oxygen flow. The current treatment, called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA, can only be administered within the first three hours of a stroke. After that time, doctors believe the risk of additional brain damage from tPA far outweigh its benefit. Draculin may not carry the same expiration time.

According to Scientific American:

[Researchers at Monash University in Australia] found that DSPA attacked fibrin, but did not act upon two brain receptors known to promote brain damage. The scientists therefore suggest that DSPA could be administered up to nine hours after stroke onset without adverse effects.

Doctors are hopeful that DSPA will increase survival and rehabilitation rates for patients who are not able to seek immediate treatment.

“We would like to offer an option to our patients at any time they come in after a stroke,” said Dr. Michel Torbey, a lead researcher studying DSPA at Ohio State. “Unfortunately, the longer it takes for them to come, the less options are available, because the damage has already occurred in the brain.”

Although DSPA was discovered in 2003, it did not begin drug trials until 2006 at the Ohio State University Medical Center. The study determined that Draculin was safe and well tolerated by recipients — none of whom grew fangs or began sleeping in coffins. Ohio State is currently conducting a new, nationwide clinical study to measure the drug’s results in stroke patients.

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Photo credit: Biella "Gabriella" Coleman

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61 comments

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12:42PM PST on Jan 18, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

7:11AM PST on Jan 18, 2012

If we lose our bat population we will have so many mosquitos. It would seem that bats are rare to begin with, although we have seen them in Long Island. To think that the bats and the bees and butterflies are losing ground is sad. I prefer them to people largely because they are beautiful, serve a grand purpose and provide much needed joy.

6:55AM PST on Jan 18, 2012

Judging from the amount of side effects and health problems caused to patients by the pharmaceutical companies synthetic drugs these days, it makes sense to me that using 'natural' cures would be the 'best way to go' when possible. If the damaging effects of a stroke can be reversed by the saliva of vampire bats so much the better. We are using the resources that our world's amazing diversity has to offer. Most of the synthetic drugs used today are derived from plants about which the ancients had great knowledge.

7:27AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

This research should be given importance.

6:55AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

they could use Pavlovian ways to get bat drool

5:02AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

No mention of how they obtain the bat saliva or what happens to the poor bats!! As mentioned above, this will just be another animal tortured for human use, like the poor bears in china used for bile. Drugs sourced from animals should no longer be legal.

5:42PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

as long as myself or loved ones don't get messed up to a stroke. "eff the people" rwwarrooooooooooooooooooooooooo, maybe Juju berries can do the same! who cares if a critter invented something first, to be synthesized into medication for human use. I'd be so happy if my loved ones suffer roorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrw!"

I am "indifferent". it is amazing what nature has.but I keep forgetting "better living though chemicals". not everything comes from plants.

who wants to volunteer them-self for studies!

"humans think they own everything"
"humans are scum and worthless"
"animals are better and here first"
"let the kid die"
"stop bullying, it is wrong"
"eating insects is murder"
"being a nomadic herdsmen is as sexist as how we treated women back then, it is slavery and barbarism, those stupid *()&(^5s should get what comes to them"

how do you know the bats will be treated like trash? if the scientist dosen't use them, some superstitious idiot will just kill the bat

9:29AM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I really don't understand why people are so bothered by bats. They are really very shy creatures, most of them are pretty small, they don't get caught in your hair (they really are too smart for that) and they eat those insects that drive the rest of us mad. There really is something wonderful about watching a bat fly by.

8:41PM PDT on May 26, 2011

Oh wonderful! , more animal testing! But its OK, the public won't give a sh*t about them because they are VAMPIRE BATS; ugly, annoying, squeaky, wretched things that fly around menacingly and suck your blood!! They aren't as cute and cuddly like a rabbit or puppy! Are we really this shallow?

Honestly, use your brains people. What would be the easiest way to obtain lots of bat saliva for scientific use?? Obviously, the bats will be kept in cages, row upon row, deprived of their right to a natural life and instincts and probably 'terminated' and thrown in the garbage when they have served their use ,all because we have decided that WE are the most important species on the planet, despite much evidence to the contrary.

Regarding "Now, the macabre nocturnal creatures may prove beneficial to more than just pop culture". What ignorant BS. Is this really a CARE2 blog?

7:14PM PDT on May 25, 2011

A wonderful breakthrough - why isn't this drug in wider use if there have been drug trials since 2006?

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