Molecules in tarantula venom could be used as an alternative to opioid pain killers for people seeking chronic pain relief.
University of Queensland researchers have designed a novel tarantula venom mini-protein that can potentially relieve severe pain without addiction.
Dr. Christina Schroeder from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said the current opioid crisis around the world meant urgent alternatives to morphine and morphine-like drugs, such as fentanyl and oxycodone, were desperately needed.
“Although opioids are effective in producing pain relief, they come with unwanted side-effects like nausea, constipation and the risk of addiction, placing a huge burden on society,” Dr. Schroeder said.
“Our study found that a mini-protein in tarantula venom from the Chinese bird spider, known as Huwentoxin-IV, binds to pain receptors in the body.
“By using a three-pronged approach in our drug design that incorporates the mini-protein, its receptor and the surrounding membrane from the spider venom, we’ve altered this mini-protein resulting in greater potency and specificity for specific pain receptors.
“This ensures that just the right amount of the mini-protein attaches itself to the receptor and the cell membrane surrounding the pain receptors.”
Dr. Schroeder said the mini-protein had been tested in mouse models and shown to work effectively.
“Our findings could potentially lead to an alternative method of treating pain without the side effects and reduce many individuals’ reliance on opioids for pain relief,” she said.
Reference: “Manipulation of a spider peptide toxin alters its affinity for lipid bilayers and potency and selectivity for voltage-gated sodium channel subtype 1.7” by Akello J. Agwa, Poanna Tran, Alexander Mueller, Hue N. T. Tran, Jennifer R. Deuis, Mathilde R. Israel, Kirsten L. McMahon, David J. Craik, Irina Vetter and Christina I. Schroeder, 5 March 2020, The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
I see our scientists are still focussed on treating symptoms rather than causes. It’s time they identified the causes of chronic pain and came up with therapies to resolve them.
I have pudendal nerve entrapment and take meds and have a pain stimulator implanted – bladder was removed due to interstitial cystitis. I would love to see how this proceeds. I would even like to be a candidate to try. The other comment or has no idea what it is like to have nerve pain in the pelvic area with no way to stop.
If there are human trials going to be going forward. I’d like to hàve my name in the hat. I mean I’m already going to have a medically assisted death due to extreme chronic suffering.
I do know what it’s like to have nerve pain in pelvic/abdomen since I had a failed complete abdominal nerve entrapment release. As for this spider deal, no thank you. Like the saying goes…To each their own.
Chronic pain can have real effects on your day-to-day life and your mental health. But you and your doctor can work together to treat it.