Spider venom could help fight chronic pain
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia say they've found new compounds in spider venom that could lead to more effective treatments for people with chronic pain. Specifically, they believe that peptides found in spider venom may be able to block neural pathways that send pain signals to the brain.
Because spiders paralyze their prey by injecting them with venom containing protein molecules known as peptides, scientists think that some of those peptides could act as pain relievers in humans.
To conduct their study, the researchers created a system that allowed them to search for peptides in spider venom that could block the most common pain pathway, known as Nav1.7.
The team screened the venoms of 205 species of spider and found that 40 percent of venoms contained at least one peptide able to block the Nav1.7 pathway in humans. They narrowed this down to seven promising compounds, identifying one that was likely to be most effective as a pain reliever. The compound Hd1a was identified in the venom of a species of spider called Haplopelma doriae, a member of the tarantula family. This compound can block the human Nav1.7 pathway, and it also has a chemical structure that makes it chemically, thermally and biologically stable - meaning it has strong potential as an effective painkiller in humans.