Spider venom has healing properties

Harold Mandel's picture
Spider

Researchers have discovered novel tools for neuroscience research aimed at using spider venom to treat diseases.

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It's not just a Halloween myth that spiders can be used for medicinal purposes. In fact scientists have been investigating the medicinal powers of spider venom. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences reports there are greater than 46,000 species of spiders across the world Every species of spider produces a toxin which is made up of about 500 distinct toxins. This leaves us with an estimate of about 22 million compounds of unique venom compounds.

It is hopes that a better understanding of the evolution of spider venom will contribute to the discovery of new medicines, insecticides and anti-venoms

Greta Binford at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, along with Jessica Garb at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell are among the scientists who have been studying spider venom. They have been analyzing why some spider venoms are lethal and why the majority are not lethal. It is their hope that a better understanding of the evolution of spider venom will contribute to the discovery of new medicines, insecticides and anti-venoms. This research may also lead to new discoveries in neuroscience research because many of the more lethal venoms produce their toxic effects via intense stimulation of the production of brain signaling molecules.

Medical Daily
reports that potential new medicinal treatments may be harvested from venoms of the natural world. It has been observed that venom immunotherapy is often very effective. This leaves us with the fascinating realization that poisons which would generally kill us can actually also save our lives.

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It is ironic that the same properties that make venom lethal are also what make it such valuable as medicine

Jennifer Holland has written for National Geographic that it is ironic that the same properties that make venom lethal are also what make it so potentially valuable as medicine. Venom toxins often target the same molecules which must be controlled to treat disease.

It was found in a 2012 study from the University of Buffalo that a particular protein which is found in spider venom could possibly work as a treatment for muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy is an umbrella term for a variety of diseases which are associated with loss of muscle mass and eventual lack of ability to walk, move, or swallow. This venom helped to slow down the progression of the disease.

In particular tarantulas have been observed to harbor healing properties within their venom. A screening process known as “toxineering” from Yale University can check millions of spider toxins and determine which ones are most compatible in painkiller drugs. The Yale researchers discovered that one toxin found in the Peruvian green velvet tarantula can block chronic pain. Other studies have shown there are many different compounds in spider venom which can potentially be used to help people who suffer from chronic pain. And so clearly the healing potential of spider venoms is incredible.

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