The venom of a funnel-web spider found only on Queensland’s K’gari- or Fraser Island could be key to preventing irreparable damage caused by heart attacks and strokes, new research has found.
The University of Queensland research, utilizing the venom of the world’s deadliest spider, has the potential to save countless lives by preventing organ damage after a heart attack and stroke, caused by blockages that prevent blood flow to the heart and brain.
The drug uses a molecule found only in the K’gari funnel-web spider and when given immediately to heart attack sufferers, has been found to prevent the damage to heart cells, muscles and brain cells that can lead to heart failure and death.
The research has been tested on mice and rats with human trials set to begin next year.
“We’ve seen it nowhere else and we have spiders from all around the world,” Professor Glenn King from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said.
“It’s truly an Australian drug molecule.”
Mice administered the drug within hours of having a stroke were found to have significantly better outcomes.
“At two and four hours, we could reduce the brain damage by 80 per cent, and even at eight hours, we could reduce it by 65 per cent,” King said.
It’s hoped paramedics will be able to use the drug on stroke and heart attack sufferers as quickly as possible after a cardiac or stroke event.
King said stroke sufferers are typically “losing about two million brain cells per minute”.
“If you’re in a regional area of Queensland for example, (treatment’s) going to save a lot of your brain,” he said.
Nathan Palpant from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience said the drug could be a game-changer, potentially saving millions of lives.
“What we find is that the cells … are able to survive, they continue to beat very well,” he said.
“Get to these patients as quick as possible – where this drug could prevent that organ-wide damage from occurring.”