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Could spider venom combat pain and lead to a more effective treatment for the over 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain? According to scientists, chronic pain relief is a definite possibility and may be on the horizon. Turns out, spider venom may contain an elusive secret ingredient that could be used to produce effective, long-term painkillers to combat chronic pain. If successful, such a painkiller could be the key to relief for many chronic pain sufferers whose lives have been devastated and permanently altered as a result of their constant, persistent pain due to injury, trauma, and/or various medical conditions.
This elusive secret ingredient appears to lie in the arachnids’ poison that they use to stun and kill their prey, which contains molecules that can morph or disable proteins that relay signals between the brain and nerves. It was discovered during laboratory testing that seven compounds housed within the venom blocked a protein essential for transmitting the sensation of pain to the human brain. The study, from which this discovery was made, was recently published by the British Journal of Pharmacology.
According to researchers, a medicine derived from just one of these seven compounds would introduce a new class of potent painkillers. Therefore, the discovery of seven such molecules has unlimited potential for the creation of new chronic pain medications.
The key is to isolate this “off switch” within the arachnids’ poison and devise a way to control it. If successful, many medical minds are hopeful this may be a real solution for millions of chronic pain sufferers. According to the study, they believe one protein, which has been identified as Nav1.7, is the “channel” necessary for transmitting pain signals in humans. Due to a genetic mutation in some people, it appears those individuals who lack Nav1.7 channels exhibit an indifference to pain. Therefore, blocking these channels may possess the potential to switch off pain in people with normal pain pathways. However, the effect on those individuals with abnormal or damaged pain pathways remains unknown at this stage.
The research team responsible for this discovery examined venom from 206 spider species, and subsequently, they found seven compounds that could effectively block the Nav1.7 channels in humans. Of the seven molecules discovered, the researchers were strongly encouraged by the discovery of this one potent compound in particular, which also possesses a chemical structure that suggested it would have high levels of thermal, chemical, and biological stability, which would be essential for the successful creation of a new medication. The presence of these characteristics have scientists expressing great encouragement about its future as a potential painkiller.
According to the study, approximately 15 percent of the U.S. adult population is affected by chronic pain. However, those numbers may not be representative of the true population, since chronic pain can often go undiagnosed for long periods of time and does not account for loved ones impacted by the condition. Moreover, chronic pain is estimated to account for medical costs of over $600 billion (540 billion euros) per year in the United States alone.
To answer the query, could spider venom help combat pain and lead to a more effective treatment for chronic sufferers? The answer appears to be within reach. According to recent research, spider venom may contain an elusive key that could be used to produce effective, long-term painkillers to combat chronic pain. If successful, such a painkiller could be the key to relief for many chronic pain sufferers whose lives have been devastated and permanently altered as a result of their constant, persistent pain due to injury, trauma, and/or various medical conditions.
By Leigh Haugh
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