Researchers look to spider venom for new analgesics

Scientists have identified a potent modulator of voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels from spider venom, which could hold promise as a new analgesic.

Chronic pain affects approximately 15% of the adult population, fuelling the search for new analgesics with greater efficacy and tolerability. Building on the observation that voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channels are crucial for human pain sensation, researchers have turned to spider venoms as a potential source of NaV channel modulators.

Using a high-throughput assay, the team screened 205 spider venoms and found that 40% contained at least one inhibitor of the NaV1.7 channel. One such peptide – Hd1a from the spider Haplopelma doriae – was particularly potent, the researchers report in the British Journal of Pharmacology
[1]
 (online, 4 March 2015).

“Untapping this natural source of new medicines brings a distinct hope of accelerating the development of a new class of painkillers,” says lead researcher Julie Klint from the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Queensland. 

References

[1] Klint JK, Smith JJ, Vetter I et al. Seven novel modulators of the analgesic target Nav1.7 uncovered using a high-throughput venoms-based discovery approach. British Journal of Pharmacology 2015. doi:10.1111/bph.13081.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 7 March 2015, Vol 294, No 7852;294(7852):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068028