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Protein in spider venom could prevent brain damage caused by stroke.

M2 EQUITYBITES-March 21, 2017-Protein in spider venom could prevent brain damage caused by stroke

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The NHS describes a stroke as a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or there is bleeding on the brain.

According to the Stroke Association, stroke is the second most common cause of death, causing around 6.7 million deaths every year. It is estimated that someone in the world will have a stroke every two seconds.

While all strokes are different and some people can experience minor and temporary side effects, a lot of people who survive a stroke are left with long-term problems caused by injury to the brain.

Some of the most common problems people experience after a stroke are problems with movement and balance, vision and swallowing, problems controlling the bladder and bowels and excessive tiredness.

Some people have 'hidden' effects and these can include problems with communication, problems with memory and thinking, changes to emotions and changes to behaviour.

It is estimated that five million stroke survivors are left with a permanent disability every year.

While some cases may involve procedures to remove blood clots or surgery to treat brain swelling, strokes are usually treated with medication, including medicine to prevent and dissolve blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.

There are currently no drugs available to protect the brain from stroke-induced neuronal injury.

However, a new study by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and Monash University found that protein in spider venom could help protect the brain from injury after a stroke.

For the research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists travelled to Australia's Fraser Island to capture three Australian funnel web spiders.

In the laboratory, the spiders were "milked", which involves encouraging the spider to release its venom, which is then sucked up through the use of pipettes.

The scientists focused on a protein in the venom (Hi1a) which they then recreated in their lab and injected into lab rats.

Male Sydney funnel web spiders (Atrax robustus) are the most venomous spider in the world, however, the researchers found that the protein in the venom helped protect the brain from damage after a stroke.

UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience researcher and lead of the research, Professor Glenn King, said the protein showed "great promise as a future stroke treatment."

Professor King added: "We believe that we have, for the first time, found a way to minimise the effects of brain damage after a stroke.

"The small protein we discovered, Hi1a, blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the brain, which are key drivers of brain damage after stroke.

"During pre-clinical studies, we found that a single dose of Hi1a administered up to eight hours after stroke protected brain tissue and drastically improved neurological performance.

"This world-first discovery will help us provide better outcomes for stroke survivors by limiting brain damage and disability caused by this devastating injury."

The Royal Melbourne Hospital's Brain Centre director, Professor Stephen Davis, described the preclinical work as "very promising", adding: "The next step is to determine whether these very encouraging results can be translated into successful human benefits in clinical trials."

Professor King expressed his hopes that the discovery could radically improve outcomes for stroke patients.

He concluded: "One of the most exciting things about Hi1a is that it provides exceptional levels of protection for eight hours after stroke onset, which is a remarkably long window of opportunity for treatment.

"Hi1a even provides some protection to the core brain region most affected by oxygen deprivation, which is generally considered unrecoverable due to the rapid cell death caused by stroke."

The researchers are now working to secure financial support to fast-track the stroke therapy to clinical trials.

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Date:Mar 21, 2017
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