This just in

On Yale & Yale alumni.
Ico print Print | Ico email Email | Facebook | | RSS

The eight-legged pain pill

They call it "toxineering": engineering toxins, in this case from spider venom, for medical use—in this case, pain relief. And while a recent Yale study identified a single protein that blocks a single pain path, the researchers expect that our eight-legged friends have more to offer.

Led by Michael Nitabach, associate professor of physiology and genetics, the scientists chose a pain channel known as TRPA1. Then they screened more than 100 spider toxins until they found one—from the Peruvian green-velvet tarantula, or Thrixopelma pruriens—that blocked the pain transmission.

That's when the engineering began: the researchers generated mutations of the tarantula toxin, including some that killed the pain but had no side effects.

Their new screening method, published in the journal Current Biology, "has the potential to search millions of different spider toxins for safe pain-killing drugs and therapies," says a Yale News release.

Noting that his team tested the spider toxins on "only one of a dozen suspected human pain channels," Nitabach says: “The likelihood is that within the vast diversity of spider toxins, we will find others that are active against other channels."

For the time being, however, I'm sticking with ibuprofen.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under School of Medicine, spider venom, Michael Nitabach
The comment period has expired.