Spider Toxin May Lead to New Pain Treatments for Humans

March 9, 2011

The recent identification of a toxin in spider venom may help researchers discover new pain and disease treatments for human beings.

A team of researchers at the University of California at Riverside have identified a toxin that could lead help lead to substantial breakthroughs in the treatment of pain and disease in human beings.

They were in the midst of studying the venom of the American funnel web spider when the researchers identified a toxin in it that acts on T-type and N-type calcium channels.

Researching spider venom toxins helps scientists discover much about ion channels, which are in command of the flow of ions across cell membranes. These ions play a significant role in various biological processes and diseases.

The discovery of this toxin may lead to more in-depth study of T-type channels, which are involved in human conditions such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, epilepsy and pain.

"The blocking mechanism of the toxin is different from classical pore blocker toxins,” said lead researcher Xiao Zhang, who works at the Del Webb Center for Neuroscience in La Jolla, California.

Additionally, Zhang said that it seemed to “offer a new toxin blocking mechanism for certain ion channels,” according to U.S. News Health.

"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," Zhang said.

The discovery is scheduled for presentation today (Wednesday, March 09, 2011) at the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society in Baltimore.

Experts note that while the research seems sound, it has not been subjected to the same type of meticulous inspection given to research that is published in peer-reviewed medical journals.