Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Venom from a deadly spider may offer hope to stroke victims

The venom of potentially deadly funnel web spiders could minimise the effects of brain damage after a stroke, according to researchers in Australia (AFP Photo/Bastian RAST)

A bite from an Australian funnel web spider can kill a human in 15 minutes — but its venom could prove to be the world’s first treatment for brain damage caused by a stroke. Scientists were sequencing the DNA of the venom when they stumbled upon a compound that they believe may have far-reaching benefits for stroke sufferers. The protein, Hi1a, can protect brain cells from being destroyed by a stroke, even when administered hours later, according to researchers. Clinical trials on humans, which scientists hope to begin within two years, will now assess the compound, which could be rolled out to become the first treatment of its type.
We believe that we have, for the first time, found a way to minimise the effects of brain damage after a stroke.
Professor Glenn King, from the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience
Scientists from Australia's University of Queensland and Monash University said spider venom was always a good place to look for proteins to help in medical treatments, as they have evolved to target the nervous systems of insects. With this in mind, the team caught three funnel webs on Fraser Island on the Queensland coast and took them back to the lab to be milked. This involved administering an electric charge to their fangs, causing the muscles to contract and the venom to be squeezed out. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A safe and effective neuroprotectant could be given in the ambulance to most stroke patients before hospital arrival and enable many more stroke victims to be treated. The next step is to determine whether these very encouraging results can be translated into successful human benefits in clinical trials.
Royal Melbourne Hospital Brain Centre director Stephen Davis

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