News-bcm 24/11/10 Dr Glenn King is studying spider venom as a potential pain killer. Pic Mark Calleja
News-bcm 24/11/10 Dr Glenn King is studying spider venom as a potential pain killer. Pic Mark Calleja

Drug derived from spider venom to help save hearts

SPIDER venom that can help keep hearts alive is set to go one step closer to human trials.

The molecule that offers fresh hope for those with serious health conditions lies within the fangs of Fraser Island's deadly funnel-web spiders.

Last year, Professor Glenn King, from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said the venom would be used to develop a drug that could inhibit the effects of a stroke.

But after a conversation with a colleague who was also a cardiac specialist, investigations began into whether the same molecule that protected the brain after a stroke would also protect a heart after a cardiac arrest or a during a transplant.

In the coming months, the drug will be trialled in pigs, which will be the precursor to being able to try the treatment in human trials.

In the same way the molecule protected the brain from a lack of oxygen, it could protect heart muscle cells, Prof King said.

"The heart transplant data is very strong," he said.

As soon as a heart leaves it's donor it begins to die, but the molecule could change all that.