Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hemotoxins are toxins that destroy red blood cells (hemolysis), disrupt blood clotting, and/or cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage. The term 'hemotoxin' is to some degree a misnomer since toxins that damage the blood also damage other tissues. An injury due to a hemotoxic agent is often very painful, and permanent damage, such as loss of an affected limb, is possible even with prompt treatment.
Hemotoxins are frequently seen in venomous animals, such as pit vipers. Animal venoms contain enzymes and other proteins that are hemotoxic or neurotoxic or occasionally both (eg the Mojave rattlesnake and similar species). In addition to killing the prey, part of the function of a hemotoxic venom for some animals is to aid digestion. The venom breaks down protein in the region of the bite, making prey easier to digest.
Hemotoxins are used in a diagnostic setting for studies of the coagulation system. Lupus anticoagulans is detected by changes is the "Dillute Russell Viper Venom Time" (DRVVT), which is a laboratory assay based on - as its name indicates - venom of the Russell Viper.
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