A small tick that feeds on the blood of it’s victims could play a vital future role in the fight against high blood pressure and heart disease.
Each year over a quarter of a million people in the United Kingdom suffer from a heart attack, and coronary artery disease continues to claim the most lives of any illness or disease.
A heart attack is triggered by a shortage of oxygenated blood flow to the heart muscle, that is caused by clotting or thickening of the blood. Blood clotting is an essential natural healing process that is designed to prevent bleeding to death from an injury or wound. However, internal blood clotting, not associated with an external injury, as a result of thickened or sticky blood can be fatal. Where a blood clot reaches the brain it can cause a brain stroke, and when it reaches the lungs it can cause a pulmonary embolism. Each of the three critical illnesses caused by clots – heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism can result in instant death or a lifetime of paralysis, suffering and debilitation.
What’s this got to do with the Tick ?
Ticks feed on the blood of their victims, and have developed ingenious ways to ensure that the blood keeps flowing from their tiny bites. They do this by injecting a chemical into the victim’s body that suppresses the clotting ability of the blood – an anti-coagulant.
Scientists have now been able to use this chemical compound in a new drug that has been developed from the anti-clotting fluid manufactured in the Tick’s body, and found in it’s saliva.
The new drug which is marketed under the name Variegin has been chemically engineered to become many tens of times more powerful than the original mother nature’s version. It is proving to be an effective alternative to existing blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin.
The problem with existing blood thinning drugs
People with high risk factors, or recovering heart attack and stroke victims are often prescribed blood thinning medication, the most common being Warfarin that has a long track record over the last half century. However, patients who are prescribed Warfarin have a high risk of bleeding to death from serious cuts sustained whilst using the medication.
The advantage of the new Variegin research is that it has produced an antidote to the uncontrolled bleeding problem. Another chemical compound known as protamine sulphate can be injected into the patients bloodstream that effectively switches the clotting process back on, which can be a life saver in the event of a serious injury or the patient requiring emergency surgery.