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Spider venom messes with our brains—and may help protect them from harm

Tuesday March 21, 2017. 12:36 AM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / The Australian funnel-web spider (Hadronyche infensa). (credit: Toby Hudson)
It may not be radioactive, but venom from a dangerous spider in Australia may help give researchers the super power of protecting brains from strokes.
Venom from the Australian funnel-web spider (Hadronyche infensa) contains a chemical that shuts down an ion channel known to malfunction in brain cells after strokes, researchers report Monday in PNAS. In cell experiments, the harmless chemical protected brain cells from a toxic flood of ions unleashed after a stroke strikes. In rats, the venom component markedly protected the rats’ brains from extensive damage—even when it was given hours after a stroke occurred.
That “translates to improved behavioral outcomes, with a marked decrease in neurological deficits and motor impairment.” This is according to the authors of the report, who are researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland and Monash University.
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