Sunday, 6 October 2013

Centipede Venom For Neuropathic Pain

Today's post from (see link below) looks at the latest research into the pain killing potential of certain animal, insect and fish venoms. In this case, it's centipedes which may provide a pain killer at least as effective as morphine in controlling chronic pain. It concerns a protein extracted from the venom that will block a particular sodium channel without affecting others which shouldn't be impeded. They are hoping to start human trials in a couple of years but as always, it's dependent on pharmaceutical company support and the necessary will power to advance the research so that it will eventually produce a product for mass use. As we all know by now, that's by no means a given in this world of cuts and restrictions but it's useful to know in which directions research is going. Hopefully patients will see the benefits as soon as possible.

Centipede venom may be used to create powerful painkiller, University of Queensland biochemist Glenn King says
Janelle Miles The Courier-Mail October 01, 2013 


A MOLECULE from centipede venom is being studied as a potent painkiller. 

Experiments using the protein, extracted from the Chinese red-headed centipede’s venom, have found it works at least as well as morphine in mice.

Biochemist Glenn King, of the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said more animal studies were needed before the molecule could be tested in humans, but the development was exciting because it did not appear to have any major side effects.

He said the big hope was that the protein would work against all types of pain.

“For neuropathic pain – people who have nerve-injury related pain – a lot of the existing painkillers don’t work,’’ Professor King said. “But this should work for all types of pain – for cancer pain, inflammatory pain, all sorts of pain. That’s the beauty of it.’’

The research, and similar studies into spider venom, is based on the discovery of a Pakistan family with a genetic defect resulting in some members not being able to feel pain.

“There was a kid in Pakistan who used to do street theatre,” Prof King said.

“He would walk on hot coals and stab himself and he didn’t appear to feel any pain.”

He died before researchers could study him but DNA testing of his family traced the inability to feel pain to a defect in the SCN9A gene.

That discovery gave scientists a target for the development of new pain-killing drugs which block a protein produced by SCN9A, one of nine “sodium channel’’ genes.

But Professor King, who has been collaborating with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences on the centipede research, said the task had proved extremely difficult.

He said it was important drugs only target the protein produced by SCN9A and not the eight other members of the sodium channel family. Professor King said other sodium channels were important for functions important to maintaining life, such as keeping the heart beating.

“What’s nice about this molecule in centipede venom is that it’s very selective,’’ he said.

“It doesn’t affect any of the other sodium channels that are involved in other important activities.’’

Professor King said he hoped that human trials of the molecule could begin within two years but that would depend on funding from a pharmaceutical company.

The centipede research is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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