Why Making It Possible to Use Tarantula Venom to Battle Chronic Pain Is Personal for This Scientist

Tarantula venom pain relief is still roughly five years off before it reaches clinical trials, but Scientist Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy and his team are focused on the results.

You probably don’t want to find a tarantula in your home, but in a few years, you may not mind having some of their venom in your medicine cabinet

Scientists at the University of California at Davis think tarantula venom may be a key player in chronic pain relief. And that could help reduce the opioid addiction crisis. 

“We now have an opportunity to be able to develop new safe alternatives,” said Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, Professor of Physiology and Membrane Biology and the lead researcher in the study. He and his diverse team of scientists are using their creativity to pull inspiration from nature. 

But why tarantulas? “Because the same venoms that can cause pain and neurological dysfunction can also help nerves work better and reduce pain,” said Bruce Hammock, Professor of Entomology at UC Davis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain that requires long-term treatment affects 20 percent of Americans. 

And for Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, this research hits home.

“I know personally myself, people who have chronic pain, and they see how it affects their life and impacts their families, their work life,” he said.

“I remember one of the patients who told them, ‘I just want my life back,’ And that statement resonated with me."

And for those worried about arachnid safety, rest assured that they are handled with care. “We are not using tarantulas in any way for our research,” Vladimir pointed out. “In my lab, we only have computers.”

He added that they have digitally copied protein sequences in tarantula venom, called peptides.

“And we take that sequence and then start simulation on the computer to optimize it, to make it more potent and safe, ultimately to target specific receptors involved in pain transmission.”

Tarantula venom pain relief is still at least five years off before it reaches clinical trials, but Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy and his scientists are focused on the results.

“Our research ultimately will lead to alternative tools that physicians in the clinic will be able to use to treat chronic pain and pain in general,” he said.

Related Stories