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Tarantula venom can be used as a powerful painkiller


Pain relief has come a long way. Many drugs have been developed to relieve pain and promote comfort. Previous studies have shown that venom can be a powerful pain reliever. Snake venom has been widely studied as a potential source of analgesics, especially for chronic and debilitating pain. Now a team of scientists has discovered that spider venom, especially from tarantulas, can be used as a powerful pain reliever in a variety of conditions. The research is published in Biochemistry journal.

Tarantula spider. Image credit: Lilreta Ladd / Shutterstock

Tarantula spider. Image credit: Lilreta Ladd / Shutterstock

Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered that molecules in tarantula venom are an alternative to opioid analgesics for people seeking chronic pain relief. Chinese bird spider venom, which has a leg span of about 20 cm, can relieve severe pain without the risk of side effects or poisoning.

Opioid poisoning is a long-term, chronic disease that can cause serious health and social problems. Opioids are a class of drugs that affect the nervous system and relieve pleasure and pain. In 2018 alone, 128 people in the United States die after a daily overdose of opioids. Misuses and addictions to opioids include prescribed analgesics, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and heroin.

Millions of people live with chronic and neuropathic pain. There are a wide range of treatments for pain relief, but many of these drugs are considered addictive. This allows many scientists and researchers around the world to get rid of potential new therapies. At the same time, research stimulates a better understanding of how the molecules of analgesic activity function. The breakthrough discovery of alternative pain killers can save many lives and improve the quality of life for people suffering from chronic pain.

Even though opioids are effective for pain relief, they are associated with many unwanted side effects, including constipation, nausea, and the risk of intoxication.

Spider poison

The Chinese Bird Spider is an aggressive species of spider, a type of tarantula found in the rainforests of China and Vietnam. Spiders usually prey on small insects and other creatures such as crickets, mice, and cockroaches.

To determine whether spider venom acts as an analgesic, the team designed a new tarantula venom miniprotein that helps relieve severe chronic pain without poisoning.

“Our research found that a miniprotein in the Chinese bird spider tarantula venom known as Huwentoxin-IV binds to pain receptors in the body. The surrounding membrane of this protein altered this miniprotein, enhancing its potency and specificity for certain pain receptors. “

“This ensures that the proper amount of miniprotein attaches to the cell membranes that surround the receptors and pain receptors,” she added.

In a mouse model, the team used miniproteins for pain relief and have shown promising results. They helped reduce pain.

This study sheds light on other possible means of providing analgesia without the use of drugs that can lead to addiction and overdose. These molecules, derived from tarantula venom, help pharmaceuticals develop powerful analgesics without the unwanted side effects of opioids. Most importantly, trying alternatives can reduce the burden of opioid poisoning and overdose. This is a major predicament in the United States and other countries.

Opioid poisoning has been a widespread public health problem over the last few years, with governments around the world addressing deaths associated with drug overdose. High-performance opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine are restricted in most countries, but some doctors prescribe these medications, especially for patients with debilitating and chronic pain. .


See journal:

  • Agwa, A., Tran, P., Schroeder, C. et al. (2020). Manipulation of the spider peptide toxin alters affinity for lipid bilayers and potency and selectivity of voltage-gated sodium channel subtype 1.7.


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