Deadly spider venom minimizes CV damage after heart attack

Researchers in Australia are in the process of converting a deadly local spider’s venom into a drug that could be used to reduce heart damage after an MI.

Glenn King, a professor at the University of Queensland, and his team found the venom of the Fraser Island funnel-web spider—which, to date, has killed 13 people with its lethal bite—contains a molecule that can prevent brain damage during a stroke and slow cardiac damage after a heart attack. The molecule seems to prevent the death of cardiomyocytes, possibly keeping a heart alive longer.

“What it’s doing is preventing the death of heart muscle cells, so even in patients that survive a heart attack or cardiac arrest they end up with a fairly damaged heart, part that won’t grow back,” King told 9News, a local Australian station. “We found that it worked for stroke, so we asked the question if it would work for ischemic events in the heart and now that we’re shown that it does protect the heart, the question is, is it useful for preventing ischemic event[s] in other organs?”

King’s team has isolated the molecule in question and is working to incorporate it into a therapeutic drug, according to 9News.

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