It may be counterintuitive to associate animal venom of any kind with developments in the treatment of chronic pain. However, five years ago, we reported on the discovery of the pain-relieving benefits of a compound known as Rg1A, which is found in the venom of a type of predatory sea snail. Laboratory tests on rats confirmed that injecting the compound not only relieved pain, but that its effects were relatively long-lasting compared to other drug therapies. Another benefit is that Rg1A is non-addictive. In light of these discoveries, it seems surprising that little has been heard of Rg1A since.
Now, researchers in Australia have published a paper on another compound, Pm1a, found in the venom of the rather terrifyingly-named King Baboon Spider. While not fatal, its bite is extremely painful, and the effects can last for several days. Breaking down the venom into its various components, the team believes that one of them – Pm1a – is responsible for its potency. It appears that Pm1a plays a significant role in our brain feeling pain through the central nervous system. The mechanism by which it achieves this is technical but put simply, Pm1a acts on multiple ion channels in the body, causing pain neurons to continue firing repeatedly.
The team says that understanding this mechanism could lead to new drug therapies that inhibit the excitability of the neurons in these channels, reducing or even eliminating pain.