March 14, 2011

Spider Toxin: A New Therapy?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Spider venom could hold the key to understanding how the body operates. Researchers have discovered a toxin from the American Funnel Web spider acts on T-type and N-type calcium channels. They say the toxin offers a new target for studying T-type channels, which play a role in congestive heart failure, hypertension, epilepsy and pain.

The investigators, from the University of California at Riverside, purified the toxin and created a recombinant version. "If we can develop a calcium-channel blocker based on this toxin, we could have a new way to identify how these channels work and develop drugs for treating pain and disease," Xiao Zhang, lead researcher and a postdoc at the Del Webb Center for Neuroscience in La Jolla, Calif., was quoted as saying.

"The blocking mechanism of the toxin is different from classical pore blocker toxins and voltage modifier toxins," Zhang said. "It indicates a new toxin-blocking mechanism on voltage-gated ion channels."

SOURCE: The Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore, March 9, 2011