Venom from deadly spider could provide breakthrough in treatment for stroke
Scientists from the University of Queensland and Monash University have published research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that the venom of the funnel web spider could protect the brain in the aftermath of the a stroke. Australian funnel webs are widely regarded as one of Australia’s most dangerous spiders, but researchers have discovered through ‘milking’ the spiders of their venom that they could be key in creating a revolutionary treatment for stroke. The scientists spotted a protein within the venom called Hi1a, which resembled another chemical that can protect brain cells. Through testing on lab rats that they found that the Hi1A protein forms a protective coating around the brain and so can reduce the damage caused by stroke. A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off or interrupted for some reason. Without blood, the cells in the brain start to die, and this is when the injury occurs. Although rarer in children than in adults, childhood stroke affects around five out of every 100,000 children a year in the UK and can lead to an acquired brain injury. You can read more about stroke on our dedicated page here. Professor Glenn King who led the research said the protein showed "great promise as a future stroke treatment” and could “help us provide better outcomes for stroke survivors by limiting the brain damage and disability caused by this devastating injury.” “We believe that we have, for the first time, found a way to minimise the effects of brain damage after a stroke. The small protein we discovered, Hi1a, blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the brain, which are key drivers of brain damage after stroke.” He added: “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. “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. The Stroke Association has welcomed the findings, but Kate Holmes, deputy director for research noted that: "We do not have an accurate picture of what happens in human brains from this research, therefore, it is currently unknown if this could be a successful treatment option for humans in the future. "We welcome any treatment that has the potential to reduce the damage caused by stroke, particularly if this can benefit people who are unable to arrive at hospital quickly. "Current treatments must be given in half this time period, and it is too early for us to know if this research can offer an alternative for stroke patients. "We urge for stroke to be treated as an emergency - the sooner a person can get to hospital after a stroke, the sooner the right treatment can be received, which can improve survival and help recovery."