Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Bite of the Spider Woman?

Interesting news that a non-toxic factor (designated Hi 1a) in the venom of an Australian funnel web spider (whose bite can kill a human in 15 minutes) has been shown, in rats, to protect brain cells even if given several hours after a stroke (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/mar/20/deadly-spider-venom-could-ward-off-stroke-brain-damage-say-doctors-funnel-web). Patients would need a rapid brain scan before being given Hi 1a to ensure the stroke was caused by a thrombosis (clot) as the factor encourages bleeding. It seems that, in a stroke, brain cells are generally killed by being starved of oxygen (by the cutting off of the blood supply) so that they engage in anaerobic glycolysis (the breaking down of glucose into pyruvate), ultimately, in the absence of oxygen, generating toxic lactic acid (as in a sprinter's leg muscles). The spider factor prevents anaerobic glycolysis and should reduce the brain damage caused by the stroke. Many venoms (from snakes as well as spiders) appear to have medically or scientifically important properties.

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