Sydney, April 15 (IANS) Researchers have found that venom from a tarantula spider could be used as an alternative to opioid painkillers for people seeking chronic pain relief.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers from the University of Queensland have designed a novel tarantula venom mini-protein that can potentially relieve severe pain without addiction.
The current opioid crisis around the world meant urgent alternatives to morphine and morphine-like drugs, such as fentanyl and oxycodone, were desperately needed, they said.
“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 study researcher Christina Schroeder from the University of Queensland in Australia.
“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,” Schroeder added.
“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 receptors,” she said.
This ensures that just the right amount of the mini-protein attaches itself to the receptor and the cell membrane surrounding the pain receptors.
According to the researchers, mini-protein had been tested in mouse models and shown to work effectively.
“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,” she added.