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From venom to cure

By , 7 September 2023

Funnelweb spider sitting in its funnel shaped web

Funnel-web spider venom contains a heart-saving molecule
Credit: iStock.com/ShafInAction

The funnel-web spider is one of Australia’s most venomous creatures. But scientists at The University of Queensland think that its venom can be made into a life-saving drug.

During a heart attack, heart tissues send stress signals to heart cells, which then shut down and die. But the funnel-web spider venom contains a protein that can stop these stress messages from being sent.

The special protein is called “Hi1a”. Scientists tested its effects on beating heart cells under stress and found that Hi1a could block the stress signals. This means Hi1a has the potential to save heart attack patients from lasting heart damage.

“Despite decades of research, no one has been able to develop a drug that stops this death signal in heart cells,” Dr Palpant from the research team says.

With more research and trials, scientists hope to turn Hi1a into a safe drug for humans to improve the chances of people recovering from heart attacks.

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