Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pinch away the pain: Scorpion venom could be an alternative to morphine

Date:
February 21, 2010
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Researchers are investigating new ways for developing a novel painkiller based on natural compounds found in the venom of scorpions. These compounds have gone through millions of years of evolution and some show high efficacy and specificity for certain components of the body with no side effects.

Researchers are investigating new ways for developing a novel painkiller based on natural compounds found in the venom of scorpions.
Credit: iStockphoto/John Bell

Scorpion venom is notoriously poisonous -- but it might be used as an alternative to dangerous and addictive painkillers like morphine, a Tel Aviv University researcher claims.

Prof. Michael Gurevitz of Tel Aviv University's Department of Plant Sciences is investigating new ways for developing a novel painkiller based on natural compounds found in the venom of scorpions. These compounds have gone through millions of years of evolution and some show high efficacy and specificity for certain components of the body with no side effects, he says.

Peptide toxins found in scorpion venom interact with sodium channels in nervous and muscular systems -- and some of these sodium channels communicate pain, says Prof. Gurevitz. "The mammalian body has nine different sodium channels of which only a certain subtype delivers pain to our brain. We are trying to understand how toxins in the venom interact with sodium channels at the molecular level and particularly how some of the toxins differentiate among channel subtypes.

"If we figure this out, we may be able to slightly modify such toxins, making them more potent and specific for certain pain mediating sodium channels," Prof. Gurevitz continues. With this information, engineering of chemical derivatives that mimic the scorpion toxins would provide novel pain killers of high specificity that have no side effects.

An ancient Chinese secret?

In his research, Prof. Gurevitz is concentrating on the Israeli yellow scorpion, one of the most potent scorpions in the world. Its venom contains more than 300 peptides of which only a minor fraction has been explored. The reason for working with this venom, he says, is the large arsenal of active components such as the toxins that have diversified during hundreds of millions of years under selective pressure. During that process, some toxins have evolved with the capability to directly affect mammalian sodium channel subtypes whereas others recognize and affect sodium channels of invertebrates such as insects. This deviation in specificity is for us a lesson of how toxins may be manipulated at will by genetic engineering, he says.

While the use of scorpion venom to treat some body disorders seems counter-intuitive, the Chinese have recognized its effectiveness hundreds of years ago. "The Chinese, major practitioners of what we call 'alternative medicine,' use scorpion venom, believing it to have powerful analgesic properties," Prof. Gurevitz says. Some studies have also shown that scorpion venom can be used to treat epilepsy. "We study how these toxins pursue their effects in the Western sense to see how it could be applied as a potent painkiller."

Using an approach called "rational design" or "biomimicry," Prof. Gurevitz is trying to develop painkillers that mimic the venom's bioactive components. The idea is to use nature as the model, and to modify elements of the venom so that a future painkiller designed according to these toxins could be as effective as possible, while eliminating or reducing side effects.

No more morphine addicts

Finding a new and effective pain medication could solve one of the biggest problems in the medical world today. Pain is an important physiological response to danger, physical injury and poor health, yet doctors need to reduce extreme pain in patients which aspirin could never palliate. To date, opiate-derived painkillers have been quite effective, but the medical community is eager to find other solutions due to the risks associated with their use.

"This new class of drugs could be useful against serious burns and cuts, as well as in the military and in the aftermath of earthquakes and natural disasters. Instead of running the risk of addiction, this venom-derived drug, mimicking the small peptide toxin, would do what it needs to do and then pass from the body with no traces or side-effects," Prof. Gurevitz says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Pinch away the pain: Scorpion venom could be an alternative to morphine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216163341.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2010, February 21). Pinch away the pain: Scorpion venom could be an alternative to morphine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216163341.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Pinch away the pain: Scorpion venom could be an alternative to morphine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216163341.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins