The toxins in spider venom could cure pain, disease

Illustration for article titled The toxins in spider venom could cure pain, disease

Sure, spider venom can kill humans. But, if you know what you're doing, it can offer revolutionary cures and treatments for some of humanity's worst ailments. It's already curing impotence...and now help with heart failure, high blood pressure, and epilepsy.

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It all comes down to what's known as ion channels, which govern the movement of ions across the membranes of our cells. One sort in particular, the T-type calcium channels, is linked to several serious human conditions, including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and chronic pain. And, as it turns out, the venom of the American funnel web spider has toxins that act on these T-type channels.

Researcher Xiao Zhang is optimistic that the toxins in the venom can provide new blocking mechanisms to impede and control these channels, offering an indirect way to shut down the channels that help cause these diseases without any of the nasty side effects of the spider venom itself. As he explains:

"The blocking mechanism of the [spider] toxin is different from classical pore blocker toxins. If we can develop a calcium-channel blocker based on this toxin, we could have a new way to identify how these channels work and develop drugs for treating pain and disease."

Via the Biophysical Society.

DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

Wait just a gosh-darned second there, Alasdair. I think you glossed over something important. There are American Funnel Web Spiders? In my own country there are varieties of the one of the deadliest spiders in the world? What happened, did they hitch a ride from Australia looking for new people to kill? Why has this been covered up? I demand answers!