The student aims to contribute to the health care of people in developing countries.
By Ayesha Corona | Toluca campus - 05/17/2024 Photo Courtesy

Ximena Melgar, an engineering student at Tec de Monterrey’s Toluca campus, developed antibodies for snake venom during her international stay at the Center for Antibody Technologies (CAT) at the Technical University of Denmark.

The bioengineering student said the project aimed to develop synthetic venoms to neutralize a large family of snakes and to achieve easy-to-produce antibodies with no side effects and low-cost production.

I produced a synthetic snake toxin because current treatments to produce antivenom involve extracting venom directly from a snake, injecting it into an animal, extracting the blood and then purifying the antibodies.

The problem is that it takes a long time for the animal to produce antibodies, and these are not only against the snake, but all the antibodies it has developed throughout its life, which causes allergic reactions or side effects,” she explained.


Ximena in the lab with her classmates. Photo: courtesy 
Mexicana trabaja en anticuerpos contra el veneno de serpiente


Ximena also said this antivenom would be specific to the snake from which the venom was extracted and may not work with other snakes, even if they are from the same family.

The student genetically modified a yeast and a bacterium to produce the synthetic snake toxin.

Once obtained, she neutralized the toxin using inhibitors and completed its characterization by performing formation and toxicity analyses.


A transcendent experience

To complete the project, Ximena applied the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired from previous research projects at Tec to develop the laboratory experience she needed.

Based on what she learned during her stay, Ximena wants to impact people’s health and create a more sustainable world.



Ximena with the stay team. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.
Mexicana trabaja en anticuerpos contra el veneno de serpiente


“In this project, I was able to contribute to a large problem that is not given much importance in developing countries. It felt like I was at least starting to contribute something,” Ximena said.


“In this project, I was able to contribute to a large problem.”


Finally, Ximena hopes to start her master’s degree at the same university where she developed her project and return to develop further project advances.




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