Could Tarantula Venom Be Key to Slowing the Opioid Epidemic? California Researchers Are Working to Find Out.

Two tarantulasTwo tarantulas
Getty Images

A University of California-Davis team is researching ways to reprogram venom proteins from tarantulas for pain relief in an effort to curb the opioid epidemic.

A team of California researchers are attempting to develop a painkiller from tarantula venom, ultimately creating an alternative to opioids. 

Researchers at the University of California-Davis are trying to create a new medication by reprogramming the proteins of the venom — called peptides — and turning it into a painkiller.

Testing is being done through the analysis of various computer-generated models with a program called Rosetta and microscopes to see how to change the protein into this new drug.

“It’s already showing promise to be as potent as morphine but without the side effects of opioids,” said Dr. Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy of UC-Davis Health.

UC-Davis said this isn't the only new pain medication to be created there. In 2020, the FDA gave a fast-tracked designation to a non-narcotic drug developed by another professor for humans and companion animals, according to CBS Sacramento.

This local portion of a NHI initiative could take some years before any new medication could be approved and available, according to the local outlet. 

Yarov-Yarovoy is one of the lead researchers on this 20-person team. 

The researcher said the long-term goal is to have the development result in a medication that is accessible via pharmacy, and the short-term goal is for availability to be administered by injection at a clinic or similar medical facility. 

“All of these steps, all of these years are worth it to create new pain therapeutic that is safe,” he said.

Related Stories