JORY VAN THIEL, THE NETHERLANDS
Student in Life Sciences with a specialisation in biomolecular research
Jory van Thiel is a young, passionate and futurist scientist born in the Netherlands in 1995. Jory is a bachelor’s student in Life Sciences with a specialisation in molecular biology. Before he started his bachelor degree in Life Sciences, he studied ecology for four years. After conducting research on the common European viper (Vipera berus) and king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) during his teenage years, Jory did the first part of his bachelor project in the Richardson Group (Leiden University). Whereby, he tested a variety of snake venoms using several functional assays, in order to better understand their biological roles. Jory is incredibly passionate about nature, with his main interest in venomous and poisonous animals.
Secret of the Spitting Cobra: Eye-Irritation Potential of Spitting Cobra Venoms Using an in vivo Embryonic Chicken Model
Spitting cobras of the genera Naja and Hemachatus evolved the ability to spit venom as a defence-specific adaption. This allows them to cause instant pain and irritation in the eyes of potential predators. Venom ophthalmia caused by spitting cobra venom is characterized by i) pain, ii) hyperaemia, iii) blepharitis, iv) blepharospasm and v) corneal erosions. Using the Hen’s Egg Test – Chorioallantoic Membrane (HET-CAM) assay, we screened the eye-irritation potential of venoms from 19 species of spitting and non-spitting cobra. This was to determine whether defensive venom-spitting behaviour causes an more intense eye-irritation to evolve in the venoms. Our results show no correlation between eye-irritation potential and venom-spitting behaviour. Our data suggests that an increase in eye-irritation evolved independently three times within the [Naja+Hemachatus] clade, namely: once in Hemachatus haemachatus, once in the [African spitting cobras+Naja subfulva] clade and once in Asian cobras. The most frequently observed in vivo vascular effects caused by spitting cobra venoms are both hyperaemia and coagulation. In conclusion, the present study shows evidence of enhanced eye irritation in selected lineages. This contributes to our understanding of the evolution of this trait, and may hopefully help in the development of future therapeutics against snake venom-induced eye-irritation.