NUIG tests spider venom for cancer fighting properties

Venom from the false black widow spider is being researched for the first time for its anti-cancer properties in NUI Galway.

The venom is being tested on different lines of human cancer cells by Doctor Michel Dugon, an Irish Research Council Fellow in Botany and lecturer in Zoology at NUI Galway.

Under 100 species across the world have been investigated for the therapeutic potential of their venom.

This is the first time an Irish insect is being investigated for its potent bio-activity and also the first time that venom from this particular spider is being investigated.

Dr Dugon has opened the ‘Venom Systems and Proteomics Lab’ with the aim of finding venom that may aid medical research.

He says that despite stories about the spider, he hopes its venom can be used for something useful.

Dr Dugon said “these toxins, once rearranged, can become powerful tools for the treatment of diseases.

It’s already asserted that each species of spider possesses its own cocktail of toxins, giving unique properties to its venom.

Worldwide, this represents at least 40,000 toxic blends that might hold treatments for diseases crippling millions of people.

Initial tests show the venom from this spider causes significant cell death when diluted with one part venom to one million part water. 

Dr. Dugan said, “We are just amazed that a solution containing 0.0001% of crude venom still manages to cause serial death in our cell lines. What causes it? We hope to find out soon.”

Conor Hawkins

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