Fear of spiders, or arachnophobia, is one of the top fears around the world. One site estimates that over 30% of the U.S. population has fear of spiders. See, Fear / Phobia Statistics.
But what if spiders reduced brain damage? Recent research out of the University of Queensland in Australia has shown that the Australian funnel web spider produces a peptide that can block ion channels in the brain that play a role in stroke-induced brain damage.
Strokes occur over 750,000 times per year in the U.S. alone according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and over 600,000 of these are first-time strokes. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving the brain of oxygen and nutrients, and causing brain cells to die. See, Stroke Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic. Strokes are one of the major causes of disability and can cause long-term effects on speech, behavior, paralysis/weakness, and cognitively. Currently, there are no drugs to prevent brain damage caused by stroke.
While the research is in its infancy, the spider peptide has been successful in protecting brain tissue and preserving neurological and motor function even when given up to eight hours post stroke in rodents. The scientists are hopeful that their findings lead to new strategies that improve the lives of stroke patients.The scientists will continue their work and have designs on one-day testing in clinical trials. For more detailed information, see: Potent neuroprotection after stroke afforded by a double-knot spider-venom peptide that inhibits acid-sensing ion channel 1a.