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Spider venom can fight childhood epilepsy, study says

A new study reveals that a peptide in spider venom could lead to the restoration of the neural deficiencies that activate seizures associated with Dravet Syndrome, which is a form of childhood epilepsy that resists many traditional drugs.

Glenn King, co-author on the study, said the the mouse study could help scientists create better therapeutic strategies for the life-threatening form of epilepsy that some children develop in the first year of their life.

“About 80 per cent of Dravet syndrome cases are caused by a mutation in a gene called SCN1A,” he 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 venom was able to target the specific channels affected by Dravet, restoring the function of the brain neurons and eliminating seizures,” he added.

King believes that the discovery is the most recent to show how effective spider venom can be in the fight against 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 spider 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,” he added.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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