Medical scientists have made a stunning breakthrough in the fight to cure cancer after discovering that the venom from a deadly Australian spider can actually kill melanoma cells while leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed, according to reports.
Researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Austrailia found a peptide from the venom of a Darling Downs funnel-web spider contains potent anti-cancer properties, capable of destroying melanoma cancer cells after the compound is chemically manipulated.
The new cancer treatment has so far been successfully tested on animals including mice and the Tasmanian Devil.
Speaking to ABC News, lead researcher Dr. Maria Ikonomopulou said:
“We found the Australian funnel-web spider peptide was better at killing melanoma cancer cells and stopped them from spreading, and it also didn’t have a toxic effect on healthy skin cells.“
According to the Daily Mail, the new cancer treatment was taken from the spider’s venom gland but researchers are still trying to determine whether the peptide came from the spider’s venom or blood.
Dr. Ikonomopulou said she tested the peptide against a similar compound from a Brazilian spider, which also had anti-cancer properties, in laboratory experiments.
“When we tested the Australian spider peptide on melanoma cells in the laboratory, it killed a majority of them,” she told the Brisbane Times.
The peptide had been tested on animals including mice and Australia’s Tasmanian Devil. The anti-cancer compound caused a slowed growth of melanoma in mice.
The compound also proved effective in treating facial tumor cells of the endangered Tasmanian Devils.
Dr. Ikonomopulou said the compound could now be a potential drug to protect the threatened species.
“The melanoma research is not groundbreaking on a global scale, but it is very interesting to find an Australian spider that has good potential to explore,” she said.
Spider peptides were also being tested of their antibiotic and anti-cancer properties in international research. Dr. Ikonomopulou, who began her research at QIMR, is now doing independent research in Spain.
What is a funnel web spider?
Funnel webs are native to the eastern coast of Australia and live in burrows in the ground with ‘funnel’ entrances, often under rocks or logs
They’re known as some of the most deadly spiders in the world, with 35 known subspecies in Australian alone. Six of those are capable and are known to cause severe injuries to people.
They have long sharp fangs that can penetrate fingernails and even shoes, and when provoked rear up onto their hind legs and display their fangs.