(02/18/13) - The tarantula is proving to be a powerful weapon against a form of muscular dystrophy.
JB Harvey has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that slowly destroys muscles. People with it rarely make it to 30.
"If you don't stop and think about what we've been told his future is, he's a typical 5-year-old kid," JB's mother, Beth, says.
JB's grandpa, Jeff Harvey, wants to change that future. An Internet search led him to work being done by University at Buffalo researcher Fred Sachs.
Sachs is exploring the effects of spider venom on muscles, "one spider showed up with a compound that worked."
The Chilean Rose Tarantula is that spider. Its venom contains a protein that could slow muscle deterioration.
"I've talked to big pharma and the minute I said cell mechanics, their eyes closed, and they nodded out and that was the end of that," Sachs says.
So Sachs and Jeff Harvey formed their own company. Now they're developing a drug for DMD. So far, experiments show dystrophic mice given the drug had no toxic reactions.
They are promising results, Harvey says, that could make JB's future much brighter, "I want to do anything I possibly can to try to make my grandson live as long as possible."
Human trials for the drug could start within a year and a half. The therapy will not cure DMD, but if it works it could add years, maybe even decades to patients' lives.
ABC12 Main Station