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Tarantula Venom Could Be The Secret In Treating Childhood Epilepsy

Aug 09, 2018 02:04 AM EDT
Spider venom could pave the way to finding a cure for Dravet syndrome. This rare type of epilepsy is life-threatening and crops up during the first year of an infant's life.
(Photo : Steve Buissinne | Pixabay)

Scientists found one good reason to appreciate creepy, crawly tarantulas as a new study finds it could be the key to curing Dravet syndrome.

Spider venom is known to be lethal, but in this case, it could actually work on the side of humans and be used to save children's lives. Dravet syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy that begins in infancy, is resistant to current treatments, but research shows that tarantulas potentially hold the secret to a long-awaited cure.

Spider Venom May Hold Clues For Treatment

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers reveal that there's a peptide in spider venom that can restore neural deficiencies that cause seizures linked to Dravet syndrome.

"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," Glenn King, a professor from the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience, explains in a statement from the university.

Medical News Today notes that during the experiments on mouse models of Dravet syndrome, the spider venom peptide called Hm1a targeted the receptors affected in the condition described by King.

"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," he continues.

These findings, which has been found resistant to traditional medicine, could pave the way for more effective therapy options for children afflicted with the epilepsy.

While venom-inspired drugs are quite common, spider venom is more seldom used in medicine. For epilepsy, it is particularly useful, since spider venom targets the nervous system.

More On Dravet Syndrome

According to Epilepsy Foundation, Dravet syndrome begins in the first year of infancy, but it continues throughout a person's lifetime. Many children go on to develop some developmental problems.

Although medical experts know that the syndrome is genetic, the cause remains unknown. Most do have the gene mutation in SCN1A, but it's usually not inherited from parents and is considered a "new" mutation in the patient.

Dravet syndrome triggers a variety of seizures in patients, some of which may be life-threatening. Unfortunately, medical treatments are complicated and are not capable of achieving complete seizure control — for now. Early detection is crucial in managing the condition.

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