SEP 27, 2020 6:16 AM PDT

How Spiders May Open a Path to IBS Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is term that describes a gut disorder that causes abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, and mucus in the stool. The causes are unclear, though for some people it may involve hormones, stress, or food intake. There are no reliable tests that definitively diagnose it. While some patients can manage the problem with diet or lifestyle changes there are no reliable treatments for IBS.

Reporting in the journal Pain, scientists have now found that one of the world's largest spiders produces a venom that may help IBS patients. After screening venom from 28 arachnids, the researchers determined that the venom produced by the Venezuelan Pinkfoot Goliath tarantula was the most promising candidate for an IBS pain blocker.

"All pains are complex but gut pain is particularly challenging to treat and affects around 20 percent of the world's population," said the leader of the research team, Professor Richard Lewis from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience

"Current drugs are failing to produce effective pain relief in many patients before side effects limit the dose that can be administered."

Study collaborator Professor Stuart Brierley of Flinders University said that disorders that impact the bladder and gastrointestinal system cause chronic pain that affects the internal organs - visceral pain.

"Internal organs have a complex network of sensory nerves that have a wide array of voltage-gated ion channels and receptors to detect stimuli," said Brierley. "The hypersensitivity of these nerves in disease often contributes to the development of pain."

Some ion channels that sit in the cell membrane are controlled by voltage; they respond to changes in ion concentration, or charge. When they become dysfunctional, they may cause chronic pain. Some venoms contain small proteins or peptides that can interfere with the opening of voltage-gated ion channels.

"Unfortunately these peptides aren't completely selective for pain targets," he said. "Our goal was to find more specialized pain blockers that are potent and target pain sodium channels for chronic visceral pain, but not those that are active in the heart and other channels."

Two peptides from the tarantula venom were found to be best at inhibiting two ion channels that play a significant role in pain. One of the two was especially good at soothing the sensory nerves in the bladder and colon and was almost able to completely stop chronic visceral pain in an IBS model.

"We now have a really strong understanding of the structure and function of these spider venom peptides," Lewis said. "The highly selective ones have potential as treatments for pain, while others are useful as new research tools to allow us to understand the underlying drivers of pain in different diseases."

Sources: Science Daily via University of Queensland, Pain

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 15, 2020
Microbiology
Monitoring a Virus in Real-Time as it Infects a Cell
NOV 15, 2020
Monitoring a Virus in Real-Time as it Infects a Cell
Hubrecht Institute researchers observe a virus as it invades a cell and competes with the host for control of the host c ...
NOV 17, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Why Mutations in RRP7 Cause a Congenital Brain Disorder
NOV 17, 2020
Why Mutations in RRP7 Cause a Congenital Brain Disorder
A large family with some members that have a rare brain disorder has helped scientists learn more about both brain devel ...
DEC 07, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Cellular Structure Discovered Inside Peroxisomes
DEC 07, 2020
Cellular Structure Discovered Inside Peroxisomes
Rice University researcher Zachary Wright has discovered a previously unknown compartment inside cellular organelles cal ...
DEC 07, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
An Autoimmune Link to Heart Disease is ID'ed
DEC 07, 2020
An Autoimmune Link to Heart Disease is ID'ed
CNIC researchers have found that there is an autoimmune link to cardiovascular disease that may improve diagnostic and t ...
DEC 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
After Chromosomes Shatter, Cancer Cells Can Become Drug-Resistant
DEC 24, 2020
After Chromosomes Shatter, Cancer Cells Can Become Drug-Resistant
Many types of cells have to be replenished throughout our lives, and cells divide to replace those that are damaged or w ...
DEC 30, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Of Mice and Men: Deep Learning Transforms Diagnostics
DEC 30, 2020
Of Mice and Men: Deep Learning Transforms Diagnostics
Medical imaging technologies enable physicians to take a peek under the hood, capturing snapshots of the internal organs ...
Loading Comments...