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Repairing Hearts with Deadly Spider Venom


Potentially life-saving treatment for heart attack victims has been discovered from a very unlikely source – the venom of one of the world’s deadliest spiders.

 

A drug candidate developed from a molecule found in the venom of the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel-web spider can prevent damage caused by a heart attack and extend the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants.


The discovery was made by a team led by Dr Nathan Palpant and Professor Glenn King from The University of Queensland (UQ) and Professor Peter Macdonald from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney.


Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s Professor Macdonald said this incredible result had been decades in the making.


“This will not only help the hundreds of thousands of people who have a heart attack every year around the world, but it could also increase the number and quality of donor hearts, which will give hope to those waiting on the transplant list,” said Professor Macdonald.


Dr Palpant, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), said the drug candidate worked by stopping a ‘death signal’ sent from the heart in the wake of an attack.


The discovery builds on earlier work by Professor King, who identified a small protein in the venom of the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel-web spider that was shown to markedly improve recovery from stroke.


“We discovered this small protein, Hi1a, amazingly reduces damage to the brain even when it is given up to eight hours after stroke onset,” Professor King said.


“It made sense to also test Hi1a on heart cells because, like the brain, the heart is one of the most sensitive organs in the body to the loss of blood flow and lack of oxygen.


“For heart attack victims, our vision for the future is that first-responders could administer Hi1a in the ambulance, which would really change the health outcomes of heart disease.”


“This is particularly important in rural and remote parts of Australia where patients and treating hospitals can be long distances apart – and when every second counts.”


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