Deadly Spider Venom Could Save Heart Attack Victims

Scientists in Australia have isolated a molecule in a deadly spider's venom that can help heart attack victims.
Donna Fuscaldo
funnel web spider NORRIE3699/iStock

A deadly spider can actually be a life saver thanks to a medical breakthrough in Australia in which researchers discovered the venom from a funnel-web spider could be used to help people who suffered from heart attacks. 

The research is a byproduct of previous studies by the scientists led by Professor Glenn King from the University of Queensland into how the deadly spider's venom can be used for good. The scientists using the spider venom discovered a molecule that can stave off brain damage when someone suffers a stroke. The scientists have now been able to isolate that molecule and turn into a drug treatment. 


Spider Venom Prevents the Death of Heart Muscle Cells

“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,” Professor King said in a recent report. “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 in other organs?” 

King noted that clinical trials of the drug could commence in about two years. He said the drug could potentially double the amount of time a human heart can be kept to up to eight hours, which would be revolutionary for transplant surgeries. 

The research out of the University of Queensland will be welcome given the massive problem heart disease and heart attacks have become. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart or blood vessel diseases is the number one cause of death globally with more people dying from CVDs than any other cause. In 2016 alone, 17.9 million people died from CVDs, accoutning for 31% of all deaths around the globe. Of those, 85% are due to heart attack and stroke. 

New Research Turns Conventional Wisdom on its Head 

The researchers at the University of Queensland aren't the only ones working to help people avoid or recover from heart attacks. Last week a study was published that found both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings can predict the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients. This is counter to the conventional wisdom that only high systolic blood pressure is an indicator of a heart attack. The study by Kaiser Permanente looked at 36 million blood pressure readings from more than 1 million patients. 

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