Spider Venom Might Protect the Brain After Stroke
Researchers from the University of Queensland and Monash University in Australia report that they've discovered a protein in spider venom that might help prevent further brain damage after stroke. Using venom "milked" from spiders collected on Australia's Fraser Island, the researchers injected the protein Hi1a into lab rats -- and found that one dose of the protein appeared to block acid-sensing ion channels in the rats' brains. These ion channels, which are activated by a precipitous drop in brain pH during stroke, are central players in the types of brain damage that often occur after a person suffers a stroke.
Inhibition of the ion channels via spider venom, the researchers note, "massively attenuates brain damage after stroke and improves behavioral outcomes," even when the venom is administered up to eight hours after onset of a stroke. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Every two seconds, someone in the world will have a stroke -- a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, or when there is bleeding on the brain itself. Finding ways to alleviate or block brain damage immediately after a stroke is essential, especially as incidences of stroke-related illness, disability and early death are expected to double within the next 15 years.
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