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Mar 01, 2016 10:14 PM EST

Tarantula venom may yield a powerful painkiller


A team of scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia has discovered that the venom of tarantulas is capable of restraining the pain receptor in the brain, mainenewsonline reports.

The researchers found that a single peptide, called ProTx-II, found in the venom can be used to restrain the human pain receptor in the brain. The peptide is capable of interacting with the pain receptor, known as Nav 1.7, thereby restricting its function.

The peptide is found in the Peruvian green velvet tarantula.

"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," said Sónia Troeira Henriques, senior research officer at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, according to EurekAlert.

"Our results show that the cell membrane plays an important role in the ability of ProTx-II to inhibit the pain receptor. In particular, 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," said Henriques.

The theory had earlier been devised  by Michael Nitabach, Boyi Liu and Junhong Gui at Yale University in February 2014, after an extensive analysis which included over 100 different types of toxins produced by arachnids, according to Lighthouse Daily.

The researchers employed a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy on the peptide that enabled to view the 3D structure of the peptide and to detect the exact pain receptor it is capable of interacting with.

The details of the research were announced at the Biophysical Society's 60th Annual Meeting.

The finding was reported as part of a presentation at the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society.

Sónia Troeira Henriques, senior research officer at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said that finding out more about how this toxin  could help with the design of new pain therapeutics, according to MNT.

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