Venomous Spiders for Pain Relief?

Spider, Australian Red-back, female spiderSpiders, especially Australian ones, get a very bad press. This week that changed somewhat, this week the press are saying some nice things about spider venom. Because this week it has been announced that a research team from University of Queensland (UQ) Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) have discovered that spider venom could lead to better painkillers.

Soon, your doctor could be saying…

If the pain gets too much, just take two redback tablets every four hours, if that doesn’t work, come back and see me and I’ll prescribe you some funnel web pills.”

Who would have thought?

As someone who knows What It’s Really Like to Be Bitten by a Redback Spider, I am all too aware of how useful better painkillers would be. Venomous spiders, not just here in Australia, but all around the world have caused many people a good deal of pain. The idea that this same venom could be used to relieve that pain certainly makes this story of the week.

Apparently, the team analysed the venom from 205 different species of spider and 40% of them contained at least one oh, unfortunately the rest of the article that I read about this appears to be in a foreign language.

No, hold on, it is English, it’s just that I don’t understand it. I’ve never been much good on:

  • Voltage-gated sodium channels
  • The Nav 1.7 channel (which researchers found the most interesting)
  • Peptides
  • Human proteins

Fortunately, I found this video on YouTube which explains it all, sort of…

Apparently one in five Australians suffer from persistent pain, so this discovery could help many many people here as well as millions and millions of people around the world. The potential is also enormous as there are an estimated 9 million or so spider venom peptides available from the world’s known venomous spider species.

Sounds like those researchers have a lot more analysing to do.

And for the rest of us, maybe it’s time we started to actually like these things?

For more on this story, visit ABC.net

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