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Malaysian Tarantula Society has been officially launched on 1st January 2005. The website address is . Don't hesitate to join us there! Hurry and become a member for free!

Tarantula Venom used to Save Lives!
Tarantula venom could one day be used to treat heart attack and brain tumor sufferers. A protein found in the venom from a Chilean Rose tarantula, or Grammastola rosea, has potential to slow the process of heart attacks and the growth of brain tumors, according to biophysicists at the University of Buffalo.
The newly identified peptide toxin, a small protein made up of 35 amino acids, blocks the action of the ion channels in cells responsible for cellular mechanical responses, the cells' ability to feel. During a heart attack, everything in your body is stressed from the force exerted on the heart. Stress on the body's cells causes them to swell, which stretches the cells membranes, opening the ion channels, also called stretch-activated channels. It is possible that, if a person suffering a heart attack is injected with a drug containing the peptide toxin found in the Chilean Rose spider, the peptide toxin would allow the cells to absorb more stress without swelling. The peptide toxin would block the ion channels from opening, which could stop heart fibrillation and either slow down or stop a heart attack in progress.
In victims of brain tumors, the protein works to slow down the tumor's growth. A brain tumor produces a deformation of the surrounding normal cells, causing them to release growth factors that may accelerate tumor growth. The stretch-activated channels may be the signal for normal cells to release growth factors, according to the University of Buffalo research team. The researchers believe closing these ion channels in the brain could stop or slow the tumor growth.
Hundreds of small proteins make up a spider's venom. When the Chilean Rose spider bites, these proteins anesthetize its prey. The proteins bond with cells in the prey's body and cripple the cells' ability to respond. Although a Chilean Rose spider's bite would kill its usual, smaller prey, it is unlikely to be fatal to a person and will generally only cause swelling.
Researchers are continuing their research on the potentially life-saving peptide toxin by examining each of the amino acids contained within it. Dr. Thomas Suchyna, a member of the research team, says they want to find out whether certain amino acids contained in the protein cause the ion channel blockage.

- Randy Chuah
  Adapted from

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"T" Facts!
  • The name tarantula originated in southern Italy where the bite of a large black spider was thought to cause Tarantism - a dancing mania.
  • One pair of tarantulas can produce as many as 300 young at a time.
  • There are about 800 species of Tarantulas world wide and they come from places such as North, Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East.
  • Strictly speaking, all members of the spider family Theraphosidae are called tarantulas. Australia has native Theraphosids that occur all the way from North Queensland to Victoria as well as in central Australia. In Australia these spiders are not called tarantulas. They are called names - such as whistling, barking and bird-eating spiders.
  • Their hairy coats and sensitive feet help them detect the movement of prey.
  • When disturbed, a tarantula may vigorously brush hairs from its abdomen - they float through the air and irritate the skin - deterring most would-be predators.
  • Tarantulas spend most of the day resting in dark burrows or under logs or rocks.
  • They eat insects, frogs, lizards and mice which they catch mostly by ambush.
  • They may go without food for several months.
  • All tarantulas have venom, although for the most it is not life-threatening to humans.
  • Although they are kept as pets in some other countries, it is illegal to have overseas species of tarantulas as pets in Australia. A number of the overseas tarantulas are on the CITES list which is a world-wide protection and conservation listing of endangered species. Australia is a signatory to the CITES list and under these laws it is even illegal to import dead specimens of these species. Check before you purchase any overseas spiders as you may lose them and get fined! (Australian species are available from some pet suppliers.)
  • - Randy Chuah -

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