Mayo Asks: Can Snake Venom Help Heart-Attack Patients?

The Rochester-based clinic has been granted $2.5 million to find out if a compound derived from snake venom can be useful to heart attack patients.

When it comes to possible treatments after heart attacks, snake poison is not something that jumps to mind.

But the Rochester-based Mayo Clinic announced Monday that it received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to find out if a compound derived from snake venom could help heart attack patients.

The compound, called cenderitide, was engineered at the Mayo Clinic and is derived in part from the venom of the green mamba snake. Researchers will seek to understand the potential of the compound in reducing cardiac and kidney injury in patients after heart attacks.

At an annual American Heart Association meeting last year, Fernando Martin, a research fellow in the Cardiorenal Research Laboratory at Mayo, presented data that demonstrated the ability of cenderitide to prevent the death of heart cells. With the new grant, Mayo will continue to study the compound and test it on 60 heart attack patients treated at its centers in Rochester and Jacksonville, Florida.

“The [compound] is very effective in helping the kidney get rid of salt and water so that the body does not become congested and overloaded,” John Burnett, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, told the Pioneer Press. “[It] also prevents the heart muscle cell[s] from dying.”

Mayo granted the license to develop the compound to California-based drug company Nile Therapeutics, Inc.

The Mayo Clinic treats more than 1 million people each year and has sites in Rochester; Jacksonville, Florida; and Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona.