New research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology reports that among the almost countless number of compounds found in spider venom, 7 have been identified as capable of blocking a key step in the body's ability to pass pain signals to the brain. One or more of these compounds could hold the key to development of a new class of potent painkillers, according to the study authors, from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Australia. Venom from across the world’s 45,000 spider species is estimated to contain some 9 million peptides, and the research challenge was to construct a methodology to productively search this vast chemical landscape.
Previous research shows indifference to pain among people who lack Nav1.7 channels due to a naturally-occurring genetic mutation. The team built a system that could rapidly analyze the compounds in spider venoms, and identified 7 that blocked the NAV1.7 channel. Of these, one was found to exhibit properties of chemical, thermal, and biological stability that enhance its potential as a new painkilling agent.
Read a news release about the research findings here.