Creepy Crawlers’ Powers: Spider Venom to Give Hope to Human Medicine?
Spiders are creepy enough to cause goosebumps, but what’s «creepier» is that their venom is way too complex that it is eyed as a potential source of pharmaceutical drugs. Some scientists are enthralled even more to understand its composition.
(Photo : Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
There are 46,000 spider species in the world, and around 22 million distinct venom compounds, now collectively termed as «venome.» Through the lens of molecular biology, the spider venom is now being understood and explored for possible pharmaceutical drugs and anti-venoms that can be formulated from it.
A group of scientists, led by Greta Binford of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and Dr. Jessica Garb of the University of Massachusetts, has wittingly brought spider venom into a higher level. With the dangers posed by exploring this strand of knowledge, Binford and Garb’s team continuously slices down the protein composition of the different spider venoms in the world to understand why some are deadly while the rest are less harmful.
«For some reason, I tend to gravitate to these really dangerous spiders like the black widow,» Dr. Garb said in a press release. «But they are amazing. With their shiny black body adorned with the red hourglass, they«re actually quite elegant.» Rather than get goosebumps, Binford was also curious about spider»s capabilities. «I grew up on a farm in Indiana and had the luxury of exploring and turning over rocks and being curious,» Binford explained. «Any feeling of being engrossed out by spiders were rapidly replaced by my feelings of awe for how amazing and diverse these creatures are.»
Garb presented a paper last year regarding their analysis on the black widow, a venomous spider species. Their paper was featured in Science Daily, highlighting that the venom is actually accompanied by other chemicals that help the venom to effectively be delivered to body parts of its victims, making it really lethal. They gave emphasis on the capacity of the venom to disrupt functions of the nervous system and its communication process, which is the same characteristics focused on by neuroscientists and not spider biologists.
With their continuous efforts in understanding the building blocks of the spider venom, the team was eyed to further develop spider venom evolution and analysis. And with the interesting capabilities of spider venom to alter brain functions, it may as well help in further developing neuroscience breakthroughs.