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Is Venom Ever Useful in Medicine?

Biomedical researchers are always looking for ways to help tame chronic pain. Previous research has shown that the toxic venom produced by some animals contains molecules that block pain from running amok along chains of human nerve cells. A painkiller called Ziconotide, for example, was developed from the venom of a tropical sea snail. The process of analyzing deadly venom for pain-blocking molecules was labor intensive until Yale researchers developed a method for identifying beneficial components. Known as “toxineering,” this process was successfully tested on a variety of tarantula species.

From venom to painkiller:

  • While screening more than 100 spider toxins, the researchers sought one that blocked TRPA1, an ion channel associated with inflammation and neuropathic pain. They found that toxin in a Peruvian green velvet tarantula.

  • The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and detailed in a 2014 issue of the journal Current Biology, was just the first step in the team’s efforts to test thousands of toxins for similar effectiveness.

  • “The likelihood is that within the vast diversity of spider toxins we will find others that are active against other channels important for pain,” explained researcher Michael Nitabach.

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More Info: Newsweek

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