A team of researchers based in Australia have discovered that a molecule found in the venom of a deadly spider could offer life-saving treatment to victims of heart attacks, even benefiting organ transplants.
“This will not only help the hundreds of thousands of people who have a heart attack every year around the world, it could also increase the number and quality of donor hearts, which will give hope to those waiting on the transplant list,” says Professor Peter Macdonald, senior cardiologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and team leader of the discovery.
The drug candidate – a protein called Hi1a – has been developed from a molecule found in the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel-web spider, and is meant to block acid-sensing ion channels – or the ‘death signal’ sent to cells – improving heart cells survival, which is vital in this organ’s transplants. That way, donor hearts can be transported over longer distances, increasing the network of donors and recipients alike. If the drug is administered by first responders in the ambulance, it could be a real game-changer in heart diseases.