Tarantulas: The New Painkillers?
Fear of spiders has been a prevalent human phobia since well before Miss Muffet’s infamous tuffet incident. But it may be time to reconsider our opinion of our 8-legged neighbors.
According to research being presented at the Biophysical Society’s 60th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, tatantula venom may be the next big thing in painkillers. A team from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia has been investigating ProTx-II, a peptide toxin found in the venom of the Peruvian green velvet tarantula, Thrixopelma pruriens.
They used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to collect 3D evidence that enabled them to examine the structure and its role in inhibiting pain receptors.
Investigators were curious to discover how the peptide and the neuronal cell membrane interact. They also hoped to identify the molecular properties of the peptide that interacted with and inhibited the pain receptor.
Their results indicate that the cell membrane plays an important part in enabling ProTx-II to inhibit the receptor. The neuronal cell membranes attract the peptide to the neurons, intensifying its concentration close to the pain receptors. The peptide then locks in the right orientation to allow maximum interaction with the target.
This is the first study to describe the importance of the membrane-binding properties of ProTx-II for its potency as an inhibitor of Nav 1.7, an important pain receptor.