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Using Spider Venom To Kill Chronic Pain

    Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the U.S. The thought of spiders may make your skin crawl but a new study suggests that spider venom could lead to a more effective treatment for those who suffer from chronic pain.

    Researchers recently announced they found seven compounds in spider venom that block a key step in the body’s ability to pass pain signals to the brain.

    One of the most common pathways involved in chronic pain is called Nav1.7. Professor Glenn King, of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia, believes that targeting this pathway could help treat a wide range of pain conditions.

black_widow_spider_clip_art_6115    Professor King said, “A compound that blocks Nav1.7 is of particular interest for us. 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.”

    The research team screened the venoms of 205 species of spiders. 40% of the venoms they tested contained at least one peptide able to block the Nav1.7 pathway. After narrowing their choices to seven promising compounds, they were able to identify one that was likely to be the most effective: Hd1a. This compound was identified in the venom of a species of spider called Haplopelma doriae, which is a member of the tarantula family.

    Dr. Julie Klint, also of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience said, “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.”