The painful bite of the Tarantula spider, native to Tanzania and Kenya, can cause pain, swelling, and muscle spasm in humans for several days. With that in mind, it may seem strange that new studies suggest that this spider could one day inspire new types of habitats.
Researchers who published their findings in the journal PNAS say that the internal functions of tarantula venom could help explain the mystery of chronic pain that plagues patients and has puzzled scientists for years. Spider bites in practice mean pain. Rossio Finol Ordanta, A study author and researcher at the Ilawara Institute for Medical and Health Research in Australia, said:
One of the characteristics of spider bites is pain. When bitten patients see a doctor, the first question they are asked is whether they are in pain or not; Because this is the criterion for spider bites. Therefore, studying spider bites can help scientists understand the mechanism of pain.
Tarantula venom appears to have evolved to defend against predators and to disable prey; But researchers often find surprising new applications for natural toxins. Venom has long been used to make antidotes, and last year the Vox website reported that a weight-loss drug inspired by lizard venom.
Since many aspects of pain remain a mystery to scientists, they want to learn a lot from spider venom, which may have evolved to cause as much pain as possible. Sean Maki, Head of Pain Medicine at Stanford University, explained:
Pain is our body’s greatest alarm against injury that evolved long ago. Pain is deeply connected to us and without it we will not live long.
The general view of pain is simple: our body is covered with nerve cells called sensory receptor neurons. These neurons are stimulated or inhibited by stimuli such as temperature or pressure or chemicals. Some of these neurons are pain-responsive neurons that send nerve signals to the brain in the event of a problem. The brain then converts that signal into pain. Maki said:
We all live in a balance of arousal and restraint. When our sensory neurons work normally, they fire and relax at intervals of a few milliseconds to produce a variety of sensations.
However, sometimes this balance is upset and pain neurons are fired; But they do not calm down. The body’s alert system is disrupted and causes chronic pain. King Baboon spider venom succeeds in hijacking electrical processes that tell our neurons to fire or rest.
How do pain neurons know when to be aroused and when to be calm? Each neuron is surrounded by millions of small gates (canals) that act on charged particles such as sodium, potassium, and calcium ions, and these ions flow in and out of the neuron through these channels. For example, sodium ions stimulate neurons and neurons release potassium ions to return to rest.
The problem with king baboon venom is that it contains a peptide called Pm1a, which opens these channels for sodium ions and at the same time closes the passage channels for potassium ions. Sodium ions enter through open sodium channels and the outlet doors for potassium ions are closed from the outside; Therefore, the neurons cannot return to rest. In this situation, what you end up with is severe pain.
Many modern dwellings act by blocking several ion channels that prevent ions from passing through and keep neurons at rest; But neurons’ sensitivity to these drugs may disappear. This often causes doctors to prescribe stronger doses of the drug. This is one of the reasons that opiates (the strongest painkillers we have today) can cause addiction and lose their effectiveness over time.
Christina Schroeder Is a researcher at the US National Institutes of Health who studies poison-inspired painkillers. He said about this:
The advantage of using poison peptides derived from spider venom is that these peptides do not cause dose dependence and addiction. They do not rely on receptors to which oxycodone or morphine binds, and can act more accurately than opioids, reducing side effects.
While some of the peptides in spider venom are very effective in causing pain, others contain peptides that prevent pain. In the past, studies have looked for peptides in the venom that selectively act for a specific channel (Nav1.7) and are often associated with chronic pain. “Findings related to King Baboon spiders suggest that another approach is possible,” said Finol Ordanta.
Tarantula venom does not act selectively and affects as many ion channels as it can. Finol Ordantha and colleagues, who work at the University of Queensland and the Victor Chang Heart Research Institute, call the peptide “non-selective” because it can easily affect different channels. Accordingly, it is unlikely that individual neurons will be sensitive to it, and that constant exposure to that peptide will cause persistent pain. Maki added:
Imagine making a different peptide that does exactly the opposite, blocking sodium channels and opening potassium channels. You now have an analgesic that works non-selectively and the mechanism of action is very different from current drugs.
According to experts, in this case, a very effective housing will be produced. Schroeder wrote:
The study shows that we probably need to reconsider the method of creating pain treatments. Instead of designing drugs to selectively focus on a handful of ion channels, researchers should focus on analgesics that target multiple parts of our pain sensing systems.
Maki said these potential therapies are still a long way off. Now that Finol Ordantha and his team have figured out what this peptide does, the next step is to study how it works at the molecular level, and finally to see if this process can be reverse engineered to relieve pain instead of causing it. . “It’s easier said than done,” said Finol Ordantha. “Nature has been working on it for millions of years.”