Peruvian green velvet tarantulas may give you the creeps, but they have a plus side.
While a Peruvian green velvet tarantula bite might not be able to turn you into a superhero, a la Spider-Man, that hairy arachnid's venom could hold another kind of superpower: the key to blocking burn victims' pain.
Researchers at Imperial College London have shown that a toxin from that tarantula was able to alleviate pain by selectively blocking the Nav1.7 ion channel in the human body's pain receptors. The discovery could lead to novel pain medications for burn injuries, which result in some of the most unbearable types of pain.
"Nav1.7 has been on the horizon as a novel target for analgesic purposes for some years now," said Jose Torres-Perez, co-author of a paper on the study published recently in the Journal of Molecular Medicine. "Many trials have tested for a variety of pain pathologies, without much success. Our research is one of the first to show the effectiveness of Nav1.7 blockade to tackle pain, in this case, associated with burn injury."
Compared to opioid pain treatments, the method has fewer side effects, but its effects wear off sooner. The findings lay the groundwork for further research into blocking the Nav1.7 channel as a more effective pain-controlling strategy.