Conquering Chronic Pain with Tarantula Venom

IN BRIEF:

  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and tenderness.
  • In the United States, one in every 50 people is diagnosed with fibromyalgia and approximately 85% of patients are women.
  • Treatments for fibromyalgia are not especially successful, so scientists seeking more effective painkillers are studying the Peruvian Green Velvet Tarantula.

Blue-winged warblers make shrill chirping sounds high up in the trees as adults walk dogs, children run around, and teenagers play soccer or baseball. For 30-year old Elizabeth, this typical outdoor scene holds no attraction. She has fibromyalgia, a complex chronic pain disorder that causes pain throughout her entire body and makes everyday a living nightmare. She has tried everything to make the pain go away: a healthy diet, exercise, over-the-counter pain medication and even spiritual counseling. The doctor has prescribed a wide variety of pain medications, some with disturbing side effects. Nothing has worked.

Pain
Pain is a universal sensation that is transmitted through the nerves by a series of signals to the brain. For people like Elizabeth with chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia, the pain persists and can strip them of their well-being, productivity, and quality of life. It is estimated that 100 million adults are affected by chronic pain.

FibromyalgiaPain
Tarantula Venom’s Significant Possibilities
Researchers at Yale University seeking more effective painkillers with fewer side effects discovered that venom of the Peruvian green velvet tarantula (Thrixopelma pruriens) blocks nerve signals that tell the brain something is causing pain in the body. Using a novel method of screening they call “toxineering, Dr. Michael Nitabach and his team tested toxins from many different tarantula species and identified a protein that blocks a specific ion channel located on the surface of pain-sensing neurons associated with inflammation and nerve pain. This finding offers hope to people with fibromyalgia, 85 per cent of whom are women.

As they search for safe and more effective pain-relieving drugs and therapies, Dr. Nitabach and his lab of dedicated “toxineers” are using their ability to screen millions of spider toxins. That’s good news for Elizabeth and the overwhelming number of people plagued by chronic pain. Elizabeth has a new appreciation for spiders now that she knows they not only kill pesky mosquitoes but also have the potential to help kill pain.

Works Cited

This article was written by Anna Molotkova. As always, before leaving a response to this article please view our Rules of Conduct. Thanks! -cYw Editorial Staff

Anna Molotkova

Author: Anna Molotkova

Hello and welcome to cSw! I am a first time writer for CuriousSCIENCEwriters and I am so excited to be contributing to this blog. It was such an amazing and informative experience to research and write an article about pain disorders and tarantulas. Writing about current biomedical research also relates to the research I am conducting at my school on gold nanoparticle drug conjugation. Whether through writing or researching, I am really passionate about discovering and learning more about possible novel and improved treatments for diseases. Besides writing for cSw, I enjoy reading, playing the guitar, studying chemistry, and volunteering at a cytogenetics lab in a hospital. In college, I would like to study chemistry and molecular biology. I hope you have an interesting and informative read here at cSw!

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this illuminating article on research of this species’ toxin for clinical use. There has been some research with other tarantula species, too, and your article will increase awareness about this important work. Let’s hope that sufferers of fibromyalgia receive some future relief from this research.

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  2. This article is very interesting! However, has this method of using Peruvian green velvet tarantula venom ever worked on anybody dealing with fibromyalgia before? Good luck with the research and hardwork!

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  3. Have Tarantula venoms been used to treat disorders before? What’s special about the specific venoms that lead them to have different affects?

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  4. This is a very good article about the future possibilities of using spider venom to treat pain disorders. It is interesting to me that scientists are making an effective pain medication using ohanin protein found in King Cobra snake venom. I am interested to know if is known if these types of medicinal uses are less addictive.

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