Wow! Researchers in Australia have discovered a protein in the venom of potentially deadly funnel web spiders that could minimize the damaging effects on the brain for stroke patients.
Unfortunate statistic: 6 million Americans are victims of stroke and 5 of those million suffer from a permanent disability.
“Scientists from the 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.” This led researcher Glenn King to tell Sydney (AFP) to look closely at a funnel web, for these spiders contain one of the most highly-toxic venoms in the world.
Three funnel webs were caught on Fraser Island off of Queensland Coast and taken back to the lab to get milked. There, an electrical charge is administered to their fangs, causing their muscles to contract and venom to ooze.
“The small protein we discovered, Hi1a, blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the brain, which are key drivers of brain damage after stroke,” he said after injecting a synthetic version into rats.
“One of the most exciting things about Hi1a is that it provides exceptional levels of protection for eight hours after stroke onset, which is a remarkably long window of opportunity for treatment,” he said.
“Hi1a even provides some protection to the core brain region most affected by oxygen deprivation, which is generally considered unrecoverable due to the rapid cell death caused by stroke.”
“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,” he said.
The next step is to see if this very promising treatment can be “translated into successful human benefits”.
Will we hear about its successes on people’s lives in the next two years? One can only hope…