How Fraser's funnelwebs are pioneering a health breakthrough
A NEW hope for stroke victims lies inside the fangs of one of Fraser Island's most venomous creatures.
New research has discovered a molecule within the venom of the island's funnelweb spiders that stalls the effects of a stroke on the brain.
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.
Prof King said the lack of oxygen to the brain during a stroke caused an acidic reaction responsible for triggering cell death.
The quicker the drug was administered, the more damage could be prevented, but in research done on mice and rats Prof King said significant benefits had been recorded many hours later.
"Even after eight hours, we still get fantastic results," he said.
"You still get the protection of the brain and reduce damage to the brain by 60 per cent."
Up to 85 per cent of damage had been reduced with early administration.
That meant a stroke victim would stand a better chance of fully recovering their motor function.
When the research began, molecules from the venom of tarantulas were used.
But when the venom from funnelwebs was examined a similar molecule was revealed and the benefits were found to be even more pronounced.
That led to a search for the best place to the collect the spiders and attention quickly turned to the world's largest sand island, which has a healthy population of the creatures.
Mr King said removing the spiders from burrows on the mainland could be tricky, but removing them from the sand was a much easier process.
The creatures were then taken back to the lab and special equipment was used to milk the fangs of the spiders.
Prof King said while venoms could be deadly, they were complex substances.
He pointed to studies done on pit vipers after it was found their victims became hypertensive after being bitten.
When the ingredient in the venom that caused low blood pressure was isolated, it was turned into treatments for people with high blood pressure.
"That snake has killed some people, but it's saved a hell of a lot more," Prof King said.Prof King estimated it would be about two years and a lot more studies before clinical trials using funnelweb venom could begin.