Tarantula venom can help cancer patients

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The Independent Online

The tarantula spider, famous for being large, hairy and scary, is about to do its bit for medical science. Scientists have found that its venom could benefit patients suffering from heart disease or cancer.

The tarantula spider, famous for being large, hairy and scary, is about to do its bit for medical science. Scientists have found that its venom could benefit patients suffering from heart disease or cancer.

A chemical isolated from the poison of the Chilean Rose tarantula, Grammostola spatulata, has been found to interfere with the mechanism involved in causing dangerously irregular heart beats and the growth of tumours. The poison contains a small protein-like substance, called a peptide, which blocks the tiny pores in the membranes of cells that open when they are stretched.

These stretch-activated channels are associated with a wide range of functions, such as hearing, muscle contraction and control of blood pressure, as well as being implicated in irregular heart beats and in tumour growth.

Frederick Sachs, professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Buffalo in New York State, said the finding could have many implications in developing treatments of these illnesses.

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