Painkillers have been an increasingly problematic solution in the United States going on a few years now. The biggest issue is that the most effective painkillers are opioids, so they tend to create addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have even issued a warning, as more and more people are reported to suffer from prescription opioid addiction.
So, in order to help people in pain be able to get a measure of relief without risking becoming addicted to pills, multiple teams of researchers around the world have been looking into alternative painkillers. These pain killing agents should be as efficient as anything on the market and should not cause addiction.
One particular such team from Australia (where else?) discovered that green velvet tarantula venom is a powerful painkiller. It is not only more effective than pretty much anything found over the counter, but it so far gave no signs of causing addiction.
Well, as you probably might have suspected, it’s not the venom itself that is the painkiller, but a special peptide present in it. Additionally, the study also revealed a new role that the cell membrane plays in how efficient drugs are on pain receptors, paving the way for new studies on the matter.
After a study from Yale looked at over one hundred species of spiders in order to identify a potential painkiller, they eventually found that the green velvet tarantula venom could potentially blunt the activity of pain-sensing neurons. This is where the Australian began their study research.
According to senior researcher Sónia Henriques,
Our group is specifically interested in understanding the mode of action of this toxin to gain information that can guide us in the design and optimization of novel pain therapeutics.
The group studied the structure of the ProTX-II molecule in order to spot the exact peptide receptor which plays a role in pain relief owed to the spider venom. From there, they used nuclear magnetic resonance to visualize the peptide’s structure, as well as to see the interaction between it and the neuronal cell membrane.
The team found that ProTX-II inhibits a very important pain sensor found on the cell membrane – NaV 1.7. Henriques went on to say that
The neuronal cell membranes attract the peptide to the neurons, increase its concentration close to the pain receptors, and lock the peptide in the right orientation to maximize its interaction with the target.
This discovery will most likely prove to be very important, as in a few years we might see both drugs based on the spider venom, as well as other medicine based on the cell membrane interaction role discovered by the team.
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