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Medicine Science Technology

Spider Venom Might Protect Us From Deadly Strokes (arstechnica.com) 41

New submitter evolutionary writes: Apparently the Australian funnel-web spider's venom has amazing properties, if you can use it within 4.5 hours. From a report via Ars Technica: "Venom from the Australian funnel-web spider (Hadronyche infensa) contains a chemical that shuts down an ion channel known to malfunction in brain cells after strokes, researchers report Monday in PNAS. In cell experiments, the harmless chemical protected brain cells from a toxic flood of ions unleashed after a stroke strikes. In rats, the venom component markedly protected the rats' brains from extensive damage -- even when it was given hours after a stroke occurred. Researchers have years, if not decades, of work to figure out if their particular venom is safe and effective in humans. And very few potential therapies make the cut. But, this early study gives us reason to be somewhat optimistic: it follows years of research and hypotheses that such venom components and their ion channel-targets could be key to new stroke treatments -- which are desperately needed. The vast majority of strokes involve a blockage that stops or slows the flow of blood into an area of the brain (other strokes can be caused by hemorrhages.) This leaves brain cells without fresh blood and oxygen. To cope, the cells can switch to metabolic pathways that don't rely on oxygen. But this creates acidic conditions, and the pH outside of brain cells starts dropping fast -- a scenario called acidosis. In the acidic, oxygen-starved brain regions, brain cells become damaged and start dying off, causing irreparable damage. The only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat these types of strokes tries to restore blood flow by breaking up clots. But this drug is only used in about three to four percent of stroke victims because it has to be used within 4.5 hours of the stroke. It also comes with the risk of causing hemorrhages."
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Spider Venom Might Protect Us From Deadly Strokes

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2017 @09:49PM (#54085727)
    why not another neuro-toxin? ask Peter.
    • The drug is found in venom, but is not itself venomous. (Source: listening to radio interviews.)
      In addition, any drug is toxic in sufficient dose. (Some drugs are toxic at their therapeutic dose, such as chemotherapy. Use of such drugs requires a careful cost-benefit analysis.)
      I've decided that should I ever decide to commit suicide, I'm going to try to be the first person ever to die of vitamin C toxicity. It will take about a kilogram.

      • What is the terminal velocity of a 1 kg box of vitamin C?

  • When I had a stroke, the doctors could do nothing since they couldn't determine if it was due to a clot or bleeding. My neurologist said that is common. They couldn't do anything since there was a 50/50 chance whatever they did would make it worse. It's sad how little doctors can do. There's a few great stories, but in general they just typically have to let people suffer.

    • I found this link [acls.com]. Ischemic is blocked and Hemorrhagic is bleeding. It sounds like there are signs of either and a CT or MRI can discriminate between the two. I assume there are borderline cases where they can't make a call, maybe like in minor stroke cases? Which I'm assuming yours was?

      In any event, I'd be surprised if stroke was the only application for this. I'd assume this would be useful for other parts of the body deprived of blood flow. From my limited understanding, blood block and tissue death c
      • by plover ( 150551 )

        To throw another wrench into the decision matrix, an ischemic stroke is caused by a clot that has been jammed into a narrow blood vessel. If the patient is not particularly healthy he may have fragile arterial walls, in which case the clot can damage the artery. Ironically, this may lead to the clot doing its intended task, becoming the thing preventing the damaged artery from hemorrhaging. In these rare and undiagnosable cases, responsibly using tPA (or spider venom) to dissolve the clot can actually le

    • Since both kinds of stroke cause damage by depriving brain regions of oxygen, this should be applicable to both.

      • Yes, the researchers give this as a major advantage of their discovery - you can give the (hypothetical future) drug without knowing which type of stroke the patient has.

    • This is why in the urgent situation, normal medical practice is if a stroke is suspected, the patient is transferred immediately to a CT scanner, as soon as a paramedic or doctor suspects the diagnosis. Ideally, the scan should be performed and the radiologist's opinion obtained within 30 minutes of the diagnosis being suspected. In the immediate situation, detection of significant quantities of blood can be made with near 100% sensitivity. With urgent MRI, results are even better with near 100% sensitivity
  • These results are from experiments on rats. In radio interviews, the researchers said that human (phase I) trials were at least 18 months away. I'm no expert on how long clinical trials take, but I'd expect phase I through phase III couldn't be under three years, so expect 5 + years until this is in your ambulance's medicine cabinet.
    Try not to have a stroke before then.

    • in terms of medical research that is actually very near future. It takes a lot of research and proof before you can even get close to having human trials approved.
  • Just great. (Score:4, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2017 @11:24PM (#54085957)

    How am I suppose to book a +20 hour flight to Australia while having a stroke? Not to mention tracking down this one particular spider w/o getting bitten by one of Australia's many other poisonous snakes or spiders along the way.

    • As long as you are in a relatively warm climate perhaps you could introduce them locally. That way you can avoid our snakes, fish, crocs and drop bears and get bitten locally.
    • This is why I always keep a few funnel web spiders running around in the house. Helps my peace of mind.

  • Consider the folowing, quoted from the summary:

    ...spider's venom... harmless chemical ...shuts down an ion channel... risk of causing hemorrhages.

    I think it is irresponsible to talk about things like this in such a cavalier way. A compund that comes from the venom of a funnel-web spider, shuts down ion channels and may cause haemorrhages in the brain is hardly "harmless". Water is harmless, in moderation, just for comparison. Slashdot still tries to sell itself as "news for nerds", so please try to at least not dumbing down science and technology. Your readers are interested in these subjects and are at

    • Everything can kill you including water. Every chemical you put in your body will have side effects. How they evaluate drugs effectiveness if how those side effects measure up against the benefits. A drug that can save the brain after a stroke would be an amazing advance, even if it came at the risk of bleeding. What they will weigh in the following studies is if the benefits the drug provides outweigh the risks of their use. For example, the drugs given after a blood clot (thrombolytics, they disolve clots

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      First, it is the current drug that may cause hemorrhages. That's why it can only be used in some cases. Second, the component of the venom they're using isn't one of the ones that kills you.

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