Published September 27, 2011
CAIRNS, Australia – An American spider known for its flesh-eating venom could help Australian scientists find a cure for chronic pain, The Courier-Mail reported Tuesday.
University of Queensland scientist Mehdi Mobli was Tuesday presenting findings of his research into the American hobo spider at Australia's peak annual conference for biochemists and molecular biologists in Cairns.
The hobo spider, a distant cousin of the Australian funnelweb spider, is often blamed for a bite that turns necrotic and eats away human cells, tissue and flesh.
"Spiders have evolved a biochemically complex venom that is designed to rapidly subdue prey," Mobli said.
His research found the potent insecticidal neurotoxin, linked to an ancestral gene, had evolved over 200 million years.
"Because it targets the nervous system, it may have benefits for treating nervous system disorders like chronic pain," he said.
Mobli and his colleagues have been working to harvest venom from spiders, snakes, scorpions and box jellyfish for bio-medical research.
They believe some spiders and their highly toxic venom have emerged as the latest, albeit unlikely, ally in the fight against human illness, inflammation and even erectile dysfunction.They are also investigating spider venom for its potential as a potent bio-insecticide to protect valuable food crops.
"The American hobo spider is the first toxin in spiders that we have been able to track down the ancestral gene," Mobli said.