Spider venom shows promise as alternative to opioid painkillers, study shows

spider venom alternative opioid painkiller study

Australian researchers made a scientific breakthrough that could change opioid-based therapy — spider venom.

Researchers from the University of Queensland tested more than 205 different species of spider and found roughly 40 percent had at least one peptide capable of blocking pain channels. For example, the Borneo orange-fringed tarantula had a peptide, which had the right characteristics to potentially become a painkilling drug.

Scientific interest in venom’s painkilling properties is not new. Curiosity arose when geneticists discovered a rare mutation in some people, a gene that does not allow them to feel pain. They may be able to feel touch and warmth, but their sense of pain is nonexistent. Some venoms from spiders have been known to induce the same mutation once administered.

Spider venom is a very potent substance. Researchers found that spider venom’s mix of toxins targets breathing and muscle movement in order to paralyze prey. The key is finding the channels responsible for numbing pain and not cardiac movement, for example. In order to achieve this, scientists found a peptide and watched how it interacted with the cell membrane. Ultimately, it is the study’s goal to create a venom-based painkiller that blocks pain to the brain, without addicting the patient.

By contrast, morphine and hydrocodone block pain receptors inducing euphoria.

In France, scientists have begun testing venom found in the black mamba snake and have found that the properties in its venom are just as potent as… (continue reading)