Spider Venom as a Potential Medicament for Stroke

The spiders from the family “Atracinae”,widely known by their name Australian funnel-web spiders, are one of the deadliest spiders in the world. It is possible that this poisonous predator hides the cure for brain damage caused by stroke.

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Every year about 5 million people suffer from brain damage after experiencing a stroke. Now scientists believe that a newly discovered protein in the venom of this spider, particularly in the venom of the spider type called “Hadronycheinfensa”, can protect neurons from cell death, even if taken into the body a few hours after the stroke.

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“For the first time we believe that we have found a way to minimize the effects of brain damage after a stroke,” said Glenn King from the University of Queensland, Australia.

“The small protein that we discovered (Hi1a) blocks ion channels in the brain that are sensitive to acids and are actually responsible for brain damage after a stroke.”

In the majority of strokes, which are called ischemic strokes, the supply of blood and oxygen in the brain is interrupted. As a result, the body starts breaking down glucose in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen, but this results in a production of acids that can kill brain cells.

However, this protein, which has only been tested on mice, inhibits this process in a way that prevents the ability of brain cells to detect excess acids and thus prevents neurons from dying.

During the tests that were conducted on mice, the protein was effective even several hours after the stroke, which is particularly important for people because this means that they can get treatment immediately after the stroke.

One dose of this venom can reduce the damage to the brain by 65% even 8 hours after the occurrence of the stroke.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will be the case in humans. However, scientists have hope and plan to conduct clinical tests on patients who have experienced a stroke. If these tests are successful, this medicament could be used as injections in the brain or entered through the nose.

If this really happens, it will be the first medicament against brain damage caused by stroke — the second leading cause of death worldwide.