Pain Centre

Updated 29 May 2014

Tarantula venom could lead to new painkiller

Research has indicated that tarantula venom could be used to develop a safe and effective new painkiller.


Tarantula venom may hold the key to the development of a safe and effective new painkiller, according to a new study.

Potential new pain medications

Yale University researchers found that a specific protein in the venom of the Peruvian green velvet tarantula blocks activity in nerve cells that transmit pain. They say the process they used to identify this protein could also search for millions of different spider toxins and lead to the development of other new pain medications.

"The likelihood is that within the vast diversity of spider toxins we will find others that are active against other channels important for pain," senior study author Michael Nitabach said in a Yale news release.

"The beauty of the system is we can also screen engineered toxins not found in nature," added Nitabach, an associate professor of cellular and molecular physiology and of genetics. By doing so, he said, they could identify more potent variations that would not harm essential nerve functions.

Read: Mamba venom holds promise for pain relief

What did the study find?

For the study published in Current Biology, the researchers analyzed more than 100 spider toxins from various tarantula species. They tested these toxins on "TRPA1" – one of 12 suspected human pain channels. Located on the surface of nerve cells that sense pain, this channel is associated with inflammation and nerve pain.

The researchers found the one tarantula toxin, in particular, that blocked this pain channel but did not affect any other channels on the surface of nerve cells.

They say they plan to continue testing many thousands of new toxins that could produce similar pain-reducing effects.

Read more:
Spider venom to treat impotence?
Mamba venom may provide pain relief
Spider venom leads to human therapies

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