Venom Immunotherapy may Provide Alternatives to Opioids

Researchers presenting at the Biophysical Society’s 60th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles report that a peptide toxin, ProTx-II, derived from the venom of the Peruvian green velvet tarantula shows potential for providing pain relief. The toxin appears to work by binding to the pain receptor within the membrane of neuronal cells, although the precise binding site and importance of the cell membrane in the mechanism of action are still not understood. If proven in further research, the finding could lead to the development of non-addictive analgesic alternatives. Senior research officer Sónia Troeira  Henriques, PhD, commented "Our group is specifically interested in understanding the mode of action of this toxin to gain information that can guide us in the design and optimization of novel pain therapeutics."

Venom immunotherapy is a research methodology to investigate the development of new treatments from venomous animals. In the present study, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to examine the action of the ProTx-II peptide toxin to inhibit pain receptors. As many species of spiders have venom with painkilling potential, a new technique dubbed “toxineering” is facilitating the screening of a wide range of toxins to assist in the identification of promising candidates. Read more about the reported advance here.

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