Spider venom strikes a blow against childhood epilepsy

August 6, 2018, University of Queensland
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A devastating form of childhood epilepsy that is resistant to traditional drugs may have met its match in spider venom.

Researchers from The University of Queensland and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health discovered that a peptide in can restore the neural deficiencies that trigger seizures associated with Dravet syndrome.

UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) Professor Glenn King said the study in mice could be an important step towards better therapeutic strategies for the rare and life-threatening type of developed by children in their first year of life.

"About 80 per cent of Dravet syndrome cases are caused by a mutation in a gene called SCN1A," Professor King said.

"When this gene doesn't work as it should, sodium channels in the brain which regulate brain activity do not function correctly.

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

Professor King said the discovery, made in collaboration with The Florey's Professor Steven Petrou, was the latest to demonstrate the unique effectiveness of spider venom in treating nervous system disorders.

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

"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 venoms retain this accuracy."

"This latest finding may help develop precision medicines for treatment of Dravet syndrome epilepsy, which has been difficult to treat effectively with existing seizure medication."

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, was supported by organisations including Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Research in Professor King's lab at UQ is focused on development of venom-derived pharmaceuticals to treat epilepsy, chronic pain and stroke.

His lab maintains the most extensive collection of venoms in the world, which includes venoms from more than 600 species of venomous spiders, scorpions, centipedes and assassin bugs.

Explore further: Spiders put the bite on irritable bowel syndrome pain

More information: Kay L. Richards et al. Selective NaV1.1 activation rescues Dravet syndrome mice from seizures and premature death, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804764115

Related Stories

Spiders put the bite on irritable bowel syndrome pain

June 6, 2016
Spiders have helped researchers from Australia and the US discover a new target for irritable bowel syndrome pain.

Recommended for you

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Discovery of inner ear function may improve diagnosis of hearing impairment

October 15, 2018
Results from a research study published in Nature Communications show how the inner ear processes speech, something that has until now been unknown. The authors of the report include researchers from Linköping University, ...

Team's study reveals hidden lives of medical biomarkers

October 12, 2018
What do medical biomarkers do on evenings and weekends, when they might be considered off the clock?

Widespread errors in 'proofreading' cause inherited blindness

October 12, 2018
Mistakes in "proofreading" the genetic code of retinal cells is the cause of a form of inherited blindness, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in splicing factors.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

elevyn_11_
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2018
As a child, I let about 28 types of spiders bite me and it cured my autism.
Osiris1
not rated yet Aug 06, 2018
So which spider. Here in southern Cal, we have LOTS of Latrodectus Hesperus (desert widows) that LOVE to BITE, so are they the ONE??
lostbrane
not rated yet Aug 11, 2018
So which spider. Here in southern Cal, we have LOTS of Latrodectus Hesperus (desert widows) that LOVE to BITE, so are they the ONE??


The peptide in question comes from Heteroscodra maculata (Togo Starburst Baboon), native to West Africa. There are, however, keepers that have them around the world, including the US.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.