Scientists from the University of Queensland and Monash University reveal that Spider venom was always a curious space to look for proteins that could help in medical treatment as they have evolved to target the nervous systems of insects.
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted and the brain is starved of oxygen. About 85 per cent of strokes are caused due to blockages in the blood vessels in the brain or due to internal bleeding when vessels are ruptured. Strokes claim six million lives worldwide each year and around five million survivors are victim to permanent disability.
A bite from an Australian funnel web spider has the capability to kill a human within 15 minutes. However, a harmless ingredient is found in venom of these spiders that can protect brain cells from being destroyed by a stroke, even after couple of hours post the event. The small protein discovered by the team is called Hi1a. Glenn King, lead researcher, says that Hi1a blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the brain which are key drivers of brain damage after stroke.
Scientists firmly believe that for the first time in history someone has discovered a way to minimize the effects of brain damage caused by a stroke. An exciting thing about Hi1a is that it provides exceptional levels of protection for eight hours after stroke onset which makes time for treatment. Hi1a also provides shelter to the core brain region most affected by oxygen deprivation, which is generally considered unrecoverable due to the rate of rapid cell death due to the stroke.
Stephen Davis, director of Royal Melbourne Hospital Brain Centre claims that the pre-clinical research is encouraging. A safe and effective neuroprotectant could be given in the ambulance to stroke patients before they make it to the hospital. This will enable the victims to be treated.
Hi1a should be able to diminish the mortality rate caused due to stroke as they can receive better diagnosis and appropriate treatments if they reach the hospital in time. It can also provide better outcomes for those who survive as primary functionality of the brain will be retained.