According to a new study carried out in Australia, a protein found in spider venom could help scientists design an effective medication for the treatment of a rare form of epilepsy.
Dravet syndrome “is a severe form of epilepsy” that typically appears during the first 12 months of life.
Seizures, which increases in temperature and bright lights can sometimes trigger, can be frequent.
Children with Dravet syndrome also tend to have developmental delay, speech impairment, sleep disturbances, and a number of other symptoms.
The condition is resistant to current treatments and, sadly, children who are affected often die before they reach adulthood.
Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, both in Australia, set out to find answers in an unusual place: spider venom.
Spider venom and epilepsy
The researchers were led by Prof. Glenn King, from UQ, whose research focuses on harnessing various types of venom to be used medicinally. In fact, his UQ laboratory houses “the most extensive collection of venoms in the world.”
Prof. King explains why spider venom might help children with Dravet syndrome, saying, “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.”
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