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Spider toxins may take bite out of strokes.

Spider toxins may take bite out of strokes

Think twice before squashing a spider. That eight-legged arachnid may one day save your life, or at least minimize da age caused by a stroke.

Many common spiders produce venom toxins that could inspire new treatments for stroke victims, says neurobiologist Hunter Jackson, president of Natural Product Sciences, Inc., in Salt Lake City. These poisons, which the spiders use to paralyze prey, inhibit the functioning of glutamate, a chemical that controls muscle movement in insects. In the human brain, glutamate serves as an important messenger, but it can also kill the brain's nerve cells under stress, exacerbating the damage done by a stroke. Consequently, researchers have sought to develop drugs that block its action.

With that goal in mind, Jackson searched the venoms of hundreds of common spider species. This painstaking task involved collecting, rearing and milking the creatures. It took about 10,000 milkings to get enough venom for experiments, he says, and each sample held dozens of toxins -- including several arylamines, which attach to a cell's glutamate receptors, thus blocking glutamate's action. "It's really a gold mine of novel chemistries," he told SCIENCE NEWS.

Other types of glutamate blockers tend to cause serious side effects, but Jackson says at least 20 of those isolated from spider venoms show early promise in animal tests.
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Title Annotation:spider venoms being developed as treatments for stroke victims
Author:Pennisi, Elizabeth
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 27, 1991
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