A new drug candidate derived from the venom of a funnel web spider has shown promising results in preclinical tests for the treatment of heart attack and stroke. The drug, called Hi1a, could prevent cell death caused by lack of oxygen and reduce the damage to the heart and brain.
Hi1a is a molecule that was discovered by Professor Glenn King and his team from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. They found it in the venom of the K’gari funnel web spider, one of the deadliest spiders in the world.
Professor King, who recently won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation for developing the world’s first insecticides from spider venom, said that Hi1a could block a type of ion channel that is activated by acidosis, a condition that occurs when cells are deprived of oxygen.
“Acidosis is a common feature of heart attack and stroke, and it triggers a cascade of events that leads to cell death,” Professor King said. “By blocking this ion channel, Hi1a could stop this process and protect the cells from dying.”
The preclinical tests of Hi1a
Associate Professor Nathan Palpant and his team from the same institute have conducted a series of preclinical tests to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Hi1a as a potential drug for heart attack and stroke. They used rodent models of myocardial infarction, or heart attack, and compared Hi1a with the only cardioprotective drug that has reached Phase 3 clinical trials, a drug that was ultimately abandoned due to side effects.
Dr Palpant said that Hi1a met critical benchmarks in these tests, showing that it could reduce the size of the injured area of the heart by up to 40 percent, and that it could be administered up to 12 hours after the onset of the heart attack.
“We also found that Hi1a only interacts with cells in the injured zone of the heart during an attack and doesn’t bind to healthy regions of the heart, reducing the chance of side effects,” Dr Palpant said. “These results are very encouraging and suggest that Hi1a could be an effective and safe therapeutic for heart attack and stroke.”
The future of Hi1a
Infensa Bioscience, a company co-founded by the researchers, raised $23 million in 2022 to develop Hi1a for commercial purposes. Infensa CEO and UQ researcher, Associate Professor Mark Smythe, said that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, and that there are no drugs on the market that prevent the damage caused by heart attack and stroke.
“An effective drug to treat heart attacks would have worldwide impact, providing a breakthrough to improve the lives of millions of individuals living with heart disease,” Dr Smythe said. “We are working towards bringing Hi1a to human clinical trials as soon as possible.”
The research team also included Dr Meredith Redd from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Dr Melissa Reichelt and Dr Yusuke Yoshikawa from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences. The research was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Medical Research Future Fund, The University of Queensland, Infensa Bioscience, The Heart Foundation and The Lott by Golden Casket. The study was published in the world’s leading cardiac journal The European Heart Journal.
Category: Health Meta Description: A new drug candidate derived from the venom of a funnel web spider has shown promising results in preclinical tests for the treatment of heart attack and stroke. Slug: spider-venom-molecule-heart-stroke-drug