Spider venom sug­gests pain so­lu­tion for IBS

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

SPIDER venom could form the ba­sis of a new treat­ment for the pain as­so­ci­ated with ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome, says new re­search pub­lished in Na­ture. Ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome (IBS) is a func­tional gas­troin­testi­nal (GI) dis­or­der. If a per­son has a func­tional dis­or­der, they ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms, but di­ag­nos­tic tests do not re­veal any struc­tural or bio­chem­i­cal ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

Doc­tors do not know what causes IBS, but emo­tional fac­tors, med­i­ca­tion, diet, and hor­mones may trig­ger or worsen the symp­toms. Fatty food and stress may pro­voke it. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Foun­da­tion for Func­tional Gas­troin­testi­nal Dis­or­ders (IFFGD), around 10-15 per­cent of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence IBS world­wide. Not ev­ery­one who has IBS con­sults a doctor, but it is one of the most com­mon dis­or­ders seen by physi­cians. In the United States, be­tween 2.4-3.5 mil­lion vis­its per year are thought to be due to IBS. It ac­counts for up to 12 per­cent of all pri­mary care con­sul­ta­tions.

Be­tween 60-65 per­cent of cases in­volve women, and it is thought that some women with IBS un­dergo un­nec­es­sary ab­dom­i­nal surgery in an at­tempt to end the prob­lem. In the cur­rent study, an in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers, from the U.S. and Aus­tralia, used spider venom to pin­point a pro­tein that is in­volved in trans­mit­ting the type of pain felt by peo­ple with IBS.

The study was led jointly by As­so­ciate Prof. Stu­art Bri­er­ley, of the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, and Prof. Glenn King, from the Univer­sity of Queens­land - both in Aus­tralia - as well as Prof. David Julius, from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-San Fran­cisco, and Dr. Frank Bos­mans, from Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in Bal­ti­more, MD.

The team in­ves­ti­gated 109 spider, scorpion, and cen­tipede ven­oms. The strong­est re­sult was from the venom of a type of taran­tula found in West Africa, known as Heterosco­dra mac­u­late. The venom was found to ac­ti­vate an ion chan­nel, or a pro­tein in nerves and mus­cles, known as NaV1.1, which also plays a role in epilepsy.

The first finding of the cur­rent study was that NaV1.1 could be im­por­tant in sens­ing and trans­mit­ting pain. The team then found that NaV1.1 was present in pain-sens­ing nerves in the in­testines, sug­gest­ing that the patho­log­i­cal lev­els of ab­dom­i­nal pain ex­pe­ri­enced by peo­ple with IBS could stem from NaV1.1. The au­thors be­lieve that iden­ti­fy­ing NaV1.1’s role in sig­nalling chronic pain is the first step to­ward cre­at­ing new treat­ments.

Prof. King notes that spider venom is use­ful for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pro­cesses of pain sig­nalling in hu­mans. “Spi­ders make tox­ins to kill prey and de­fend them­selves against preda­tors, and the most ef­fec­tive way to de­fend against a preda­tor is to make them feel ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain,” he says. Be­cause of this, he ex­plains, we can ex­pect spider venom to be full of mol­e­cules that stim­u­late the pain-sens­ing nerves in the body.

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