Compound in Spider Venom Could Lead to Chronic Pain Treatment

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A compound found in a particular species of spider venom may hold the key to pain relief in people with chronic pain.

Researchers have long been interested in spider venom as a possible treatment for chronic pain, however the 45,000 species of spiders have over nine million types of peptides in their venom, with only about 0.01% currently explored for pharmacological use.

The Nav1.7 pathway in humans has been a focus of pain research, as blocking this pathway seems to “turn off” pain in people. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia worked to isolate a peptide from spider venom that successfully blocks Nav1.7.

The researchers developed a high-throughput fluorescent-based assay system to help them search for peptides that may be able to block Nav1.7 in the venoms of 205 species of spider. Forty percent of venoms from the study had at least one peptide that blocked Nav1.7 in humans. Researchers then narrowed the list down to seven compounds, with one in particular, Hd1a, standing out for its superior chemical structure. The compound was found in the venom of Haplopelma doriae, a member of the tarantula family.

The researchers hope that their systems will help identify other compounds, not only from spiders, but from other venomous animals, that may lead to the development of therapeutics for humans. 

Compound in Spider Venom Could Lead to Chronic Pain Treatment

The thought of spiders may make your skin crawl, but a new study suggests that maybe we should put our hatred of the eight-legged beasts to one side; their venom could lead to a more effective treatment for the 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain.

Chronic pain - defined as pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months - is the most common cause of long-term disability in the US. It occurs when nerves in a part of the body send continuous signals to the brain via pain pathways.

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