09-08-2018| Spider venom may help treat a severe form of childhood epilepsy

09 August 2018
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A new study carried out in University of Queensland (Australia), has discovered that protein found in spider venom could help scientists creative an effective medication for the treatment of Dravet syndrome.

The condition is unable to be treated by conventional medicine but a team of researchers may have found a treatment with spider venom. 

Led by Prof. Glenn King, from University of Queensland (UQ), whose laboratory houses the most extensive collection of venoms in the world.

Prof. King explains: "About 80 percent of Dravet syndrome cases are caused by a mutation in a gene called SCN1A. When this gene doesn't work as it should, sodium channels in the brain, which regulate brain activity, do not function correctly."

When used on mice that have Dravet syndrome, spider venom peptide resulted in a fascinating discovery. 

"In our studies, the peptide from spider venom was able to target the specific channels affected by Dravet, restoring the function of the brain neurons and eliminating seizures."

Prof. Steven Petrou, from the Florey Institute - who researched with Prof. King on the new study - explains why spider venom was beneficial in this case.

"Spiders, kill their prey through venom compounds that target the nervous system, unlike snakes for example, whose venom targets the cardiovascular system."

"Millions of years of evolution have refined spider venom to specifically target certain ion channels, without causing side effects on others, and drugs derived from spider venoms retain this accuracy."

The research team hope that these results will encourage further investigation. Prof. Petrou believes the findings might "help develop precision medicines for treatment of Dravet syndrome epilepsy, which has been difficult to treat effectively with existing seizure medication."


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