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Volume 91 Issue 40 | p. 44 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 7, 2013

Centipede Venom To Ease Your Pain

Researchers think that a peptide in the creepy-crawly’s venom selectively blocks a sodium ion channel linked to pain
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: centipede, analgesic, painkiller
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Chinese red-headed centipede
Credit: Yasunori Koide/Wikimedia Commons
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Chinese red-headed centipede
Credit: Yasunori Koide/Wikimedia Commons

Venomous, loaded with legs, and measuring 8 inches long—the Chinese red-headed centipede is a creepy-crawly thing most of us would steer clear of. But new research shows that a peptide in this creature’s venom could be a candidate for treating chronic pain (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2013, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1306285110). Six FDA-approved drugs have been derived from proteins or peptides found in various venoms, including the analgesic Prialt (ziconotide), which is a synthetic version of a compound found in the cone snail. The Chinese red-headed centipede, or Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, is now getting into the painkilling game. A team led by Mingqiang Rong and Ren Lai of China’s Kunming Institute of Zoology and Glenn F. King of Australia’s University of Queensland isolated a 46-residue peptide from the critter’s venom. They report that the peptide proved to be a better analgesic than morphine in mouse studies and did not have any apparent side effects. The peptide’s sequence is unlike any previously described protein or peptide, the researchers report. They believe the compound selectively inhibits a specific voltage-gated sodium channel that’s been linked to pain.

 
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