Monday, March 10, 2014

Centipede Venom Replacing Morphine?

Morphine is a very useful, necessary substance for providing pain relief to thousands of individuals across the world that are either hospitalized, or even suffering severe chronic pain in their homes. However, morphine is an opioid, much like an opiate, coming from the opium plant that heroin is also made from. Drugs like heroin and morphine block receptors key to feeling pain, and so while morphine certainly does the job, it can and generally does become addictive.

A peptide from the venom of a Chinese redheaded centipede (shown left) is meant to paralyze prey, but luckily humans have different voltage-gated sodium channels (or Nav's) than insects, the usual prey of these centipedes. This specific peptide (called Ssm6a) targets the Nav that the researchers are interested in, Nav1.7, which is critical for the electrical signaling pathway of pain. Using this peptide to interrupt the pathway could reduce if not eliminate pain. Since the peptide is not blocking receptors, researcher Glenn King from the University of Queensland says that he doubts addiction or even tolerance would become an issue.

Trials on mice have shown hope for the use of centipede venom for pain suppression in humans. Mice injected with Ssm6a showed equal or better response for pain suppression, and had no negative side effects. This could potentially help almost 20% of the total population, who experiences chronic pain, without the concern for such drastic addictions.

Posted by Steven Yu (6)


  1. While any substance or thing can become addictive depending upon the person, the discovery of the properties of this centipede's peptide could still prove to at least battle the chemical side of addictive pain suppressants. Do they have any idea how much of this substance might be required to significantly reduce or eliminate the physical pain in a human?

    Posted by Michael Dailing

    1. I couldn't find anything for the dosage amount in the article I cited, I couldn't even find it in any other articles, though they compare it to morphine so I do not think it would require a large amount more... I do agree with you, it seems that any substance could become addictive, especially something that removes pain.

      Answered by Steven Yu

  2. This is a really interesting article, however I wonder what types of chronic pain can this really help with? Also, do you think the total population need this remedy or just those in chronic pain? I would love to see more research done on this subject.
    Posted by Lindsey Janof

    1. I think they would aim it at chronic pain from back problems, or potentially other patients. The population in general could benefit in emergency cases. Any time morphine could be used to relieve the pain of an emergency surgery, etc., the extract from centipede venom could replace.
      I would also like to see more research done on it, but none has been posted as news articles since the end of October, 2013...hopefully they are in the process of a great discovery.

      Answered by Steven Yu

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