Spider Toxins Could Help Treat Pain and Disease
A new spider toxin was discovered that could lead scientists to new ways of treating different human diseases. Spider venom toxins are already used in this manner, as they help demonstrate how ion channels operate in the body. Controlling the flow of ions across cell membranes is key controlling certain biological processes including the development of certain diseases.
The newly identified spider toxin acts specifically on T-type and N-type calcium channels. T-type channels play a large role in congestive heart failure, hypertension, epilepsy, and pain in general. Scientists are now trying to create a calcium-channel blocker based on this new toxin. If they are successful in this, they could discover exactly how these channels work, and develop better treatment and drugs for pain and certain diseases. The toxin has already been purified by Xiao Zhang, a postdoc at the Del Webb Center for Neuroscience in La Jolla, and a recombinant version created.
Do you know anything about how spider toxins work on the human body? What makes them useful in research on pain and disease?