The Australian funnel-web spider is generally something you’d want to steer well clear of, but the creepy crawly could soon be helping out stroke victims. A peptide found in the spider’s venom has been shown to reduce the brain damage that occurs in the hours following a stroke, with early preclinical studies involving rats having delivered extremely promising results.
A University of Queensland research team, led by Professor Glenn King, has spent several years unravelling the potential medical benefits found in one of the world’s most deadly spider venoms. In 2015, the team found a particular peptide in the venom that blocked the pathway responsible for sending pain signals from nerves to the brain.
There are 35 species of funnel web spiders in Australia and the research team has been examining the venom from a particular genus named Hadronyche infensa, which is found along the east coast in New South Wales and Queensland.
“The small protein we discovered, Hi1a, blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the brain, which are key drivers of brain damage after stroke,” Professor King explains.