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Spider venom could act as alternative to opioids for dealing with chronic pain

Researchers say the risk of addiction would be greatly reduced

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Photo (c) artas - Getty Images
With many consumers turning to opioids to help deal with chronic pain, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland made an interesting new discovery that could reduce the need for such drugs. 

Though it may seem unconventional, the researchers discovered that molecules from tarantula venom could be a way to help consumers manage their chronic pain with little to no side effects. This could serve as a viable option for consumers to steer clear of opioids and their related side effects. 

“Although opioids are effective in producing pain relief, they come with unwanted side-effects like nausea, constipation, and the risk of addiction, placing a huge burden on society,” said researcher Dr. Christina Schroeder. “Our study found that a mini-protein in tarantula venom from the Chinese bird spider, known as Huwentoxin-IV, binds to pain receptors in the body.” 

Managing pain relief

The researchers began this project in an effort to help consumers manage their chronic pain while also doing their part to help cut down on the number of opioid prescriptions. They used the Chinese bird spiders’ venom to create a drug that would help target consumers’ most problematic pain areas. 

The first step was to test the new drug on mice and assess how the spider venom affected their pain levels; they also evaluated any negative reactions that developed. Ultimately, the researchers learned that the drug was effective in both reducing pain and eliminating side effects. 

“By using a three-pronged approach in our drug design that incorporates the mini-protein, its receptor and the surrounding membrane from the spider venom, we’ve altered this mini-protein resulting in greater potency and specificity for specific pain,” Dr. Schroeder explained. “This ensures that just the right amount of the mini-protein attaches itself to the receptor and the cell membrane surrounding the pain receptors.” 

Because of these successful early findings, the researchers hope that this experiment can continue to progress and that consumers can one day be on the receiving end of these results. Developing a drug with the spider venom could help consumers steer clear of the risks associated with opioids while also managing chronic pain. 

“Our findings could potentially lead to an alternative method of treating pain without the side-effects and reduce many individuals’ reliance on opioids for pain relief,” said Dr. Schroeder. 

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