“Deadly” spider venom may be able to protect brain cells from being destroyed by a stroke, a new study has revealed.
The venom belongs to one of the deadliest spiders in the world, the Australian funnel web spider, and can potentially kill a human in 15 minutes.
But researchers say that a harmless ingredient found in the venom is capable of protecting brain cells during a stroke.
The venom ingredient, Hi1a, will soon be tested in human trials.
The scientists say that the molecule looks like “two brain cells stitched together” which was what interested them in the first instance.
“It proved to be even more potent,” said Glenn King at the University of Queensland’s centre for pain research.
In experiments on rats, they say that following a stroke, the molecule “almost restored” the rats’ neurological and motor performance to normal.
A stroke is caused by a blood clot in the brain, which restricts oxygen and quickly starves vital brain cells.
They kill more than six million people each year, and leave many more in a critically ill or disabled condition.
Kate Holmes, of the Stroke Association, said: “We welcome any treatment that has the potential to reduce the damage caused by stroke, particularly if this can benefit people who are unable to arrive at hospital quickly.
“We urge for stroke to be treated as an emergency. The sooner a person can get to hospital after a stroke, the sooner the right treatment can be received which can improve survival and help recovery.”