Deriving Life from Venom

loading The Malayan pit viper.

One scientist’s resolve to uncover a medical mystery led to a possible treatment for stroke, but the cure comes from a most unexpected source.

It is called the “hundred pacer” because victims of its bite meet their death by the time they have taken their hundredth step. While the veracity of this local legend is questionable, many survivors are left with amputated or dysfunctional limbs. The culprit? Ancistrodon rhodostoma, otherwise known as the Malayan pit viper.

Little did Penang-born pathologist Prof. Dato’ Dr Chan Kok Ewe know that the snake’s venom can treat stroke patients.

In the 1960s Chan was instrumental in unravelling the medical mystery of why some bite victims suffer local bleeding, while others do not. He made the medical breakthrough while serving as the specialist pathologist at the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) branch laboratory of the Penang General Hospital in 1960.

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