Centipede venom may relieve chronic pain
Researchers from Australia and China have found that a molecule in centipede venom can block pain as effectively as morphine, and may lead to a new drug for people suffering from chronic pain. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that few drugs to treat chronic pain are currently on the market, and many are not very effective or cause side effects that prevent them from being used in large doses or for long periods of time.
For the study, the scientists identified the NaV1.7 sodium ion channel as their avenue for blocking pain. A sodium ion channel is a specialized protein that acts like a gateway in the membrane of a nerve cell to only allow sodium ions to enter. Some people are born with a gene mutation that makes them impervious to pain, which is due to a malfunction of the same sodium ion channel. Therefore, researchers looked for a molecule that could block this channel. They ended up focusing on centipede venom because the insects paralyze their prey by blocking sodium channels.
The research determined that in mice, the centipede venom peptide had a stronger analgesic effect against pain than morphine and carried no side effects.