Although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of spiders, new research suggests that spider venom may actually hold the key to unlocking chronic pain.
According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, certain spider venoms contain seven compounds that could be therapeutic for some chronic pain sufferers. Study co-author Professor Glenn King said the key to alleviating chronic pain lies in the Nav1.7 channel, and area associated with pain and inflammation in humans.
“A compound that blocks Nav1.7 channels is of particular interest for us,” said King. “Previous research shows indifference to pain among people who lack Nav1.7 channels due to a naturally-occurring genetic mutation — so blocking these channels has the potential of turning off pain in people with normal pain pathways.”
Spider Venom Benefits
Now if you’re suffering from chronic pain, I don’t recommend that you go out and get bit by any old spider, but the science behind spider venom for chronic pain is intriguing. There are more than 45,000 species of spiders in the world, all with hundreds or thousands of different proteins in their venom. Some of these proteins have the ability to block nerve activity, but scientists haven’t conducted a lot of research on these compounds or their medical potential. Dr. Julie Kaae Klint, co-author of the study, said we need to continue testing all these available compounds.
“A conservative estimate indicates that there are nine million spider-venom peptides, and only 0.01% of this vast pharmacological landscape has been explored so far,” said. Dr. Klint.
Examining all nine million peptides individually would take years or decades, so researchers came up with a simpler solution. The screened venom from 206 different species of spiders and found that nearly half of the venom contained at least one compound that blocked human Nav1.7 channels. Seven specific compounds proved especially promising, and one of these compounds actually showcased chemical, thermal and biological stability. These three stabilities are necessary when designing a new drug.
Considering that chronic pain affects one in five people worldwide, this natural resource could be a huge gamechanger for those suffering from chronic conditions.
“Untapping this natural source of new medicines brings a distinct hope of accelerating the development of a new class of painkillers that can help people who suffer from chronic pain that cannot be treated with current treatment options,” said Dr. Klint.
Related source: Medical Daily
Thomas Cohn, MD
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