A compound isolated from spider venom called Hm1a helps reduce seizure susceptibility and mortality in mice with Dravet syndrome, according to researchers.
Their study, “Selective NaV1.1 activation rescues Dravet syndrome mice from seizures and premature death,” was published in PNAS.
Dravet syndrome is resistant to several pharmaceutical therapies that are geared toward treatment of other types of epilepsy. This creates an urgent need to develop new therapeutic strategies to treat this genetic disease.
Most patients with Dravet syndrome have a mutation in the SCN1A gene which results in a deficiency in the sodium channel NaV1.1. In the brain, NaV1.1 is expressed on the surface of nerve cells and plays a critical role in nerve-nerve cell signaling.
Spider venom is a rich source of compounds that target ion channels, much like Nav1.1.
Hm1a is a peptide — short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins — present in spider venom that selectively improves the functioning of Nav1.1.