Spider venom may hold chemical keys to new painkillers

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A research team at the University of Queensland in Australia has found seven compounds in spider venom that are able to block the human pain pathway, a discovery that may lead to more effective painkillers.

When a person is hurt, nerves in the part of body that experienced the pain send signals to the brain via the body’s pain pathways. The most common pain pathway includes Nav1.7, a sodium ion channel that’s contained in neurons within the root of the spinal cord, along the length of the spinal cord and near the apex of the skull’s temporal bone.

Neurons transmit information as electrical and chemical impulses that are passed from the neuron’s dendrites to its synapse and then to a second neuron. Within a neuron’s axon are sodium ion channels such as Nav1.7. Whenever the neuron receives a signal, it activates the channels, and sodium ions move into the cell.

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience have found that there are special peptides in spider venom. These peptides bind to Nav1.7 and increase the amount of sodium ions moving across the cell membrane so that neurons are unable to transmit information. This prevents neurons from transmitting pain.

The research team screened the venom of 205 species of spiders, and found that 40 percent of venoms contain peptides that can block the Nav1.7 pathway. Research leader Professor Glen King says that the next step is to isolate more of these peptides and explore their clinical potential.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Man hurts himself, pain signal is sent to his brain
2. Location of neurons that contain Nav1.7 sodium ion channels
3. Neurons transmit information, sodium ion channels are activated
4. Presence of peptides in spider venom
5. Peptides bind to sodium ion channels and prevent pain signals from crossing

VOICEOVER (in English):

“When a person get hurt, nerves in the body part that experienced the pain send signals to the brain via the body’s pain pathways.”

“The most common pain pathway includes Nav1.7, a sodium ion channel that’s contained in neurons within the root of the spinal cord, along the length of the spinal cord and near the apex of the skull’s temporal bone.”

“Neurons transmit information as electrical and chemical impulses.”

“Within the neuron’s axon there are sodium ion channels such as Nav1.7. Whenever a neuron receives a signal, it activates the channels and sodium ions move into the cell.”

“Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience have found that there are special peptides in spider venom.”

“These peptides bind to Nav1.7 and increase the amount of sodium ions moving across the membrane so that neurons are unable to transmit information. This prevents neurons from transmitting pain.”

SOURCES: Reuters, ABC, ScienceDaily, University of Queensland

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/04/us-science-pain-venom-idUSKBN0M00B320150304

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-04/spider-venom-may-have-legs-as-future-painkiller/6281200

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150304075410.htm

http://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2015/03/spider-venom-may-have-legs-future-painkiller