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Can Scorpion Venom Ease Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is often difficult to treat depending on the cause. It may contribute to decreased physical activity and the development of behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression and insomnia that can exacerbate illness symptoms. Treatment options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, and opioids. Due to the opioid crisis occurring in the United States, many doctors are now looking at alternate treatments to help patients with long-term chronic pain. Pain management and social support are important for pain relief and improving the quality of life for those living with pain. A new study suggests that the venom from a scorpion sting could provide a solution to chronic pain.

Researchers have identified a scorpion toxin, WaTx, which targets the TRPA1 ion channel found in sensory nerve cells. TRPA1 acts as a chemosensory receptor which is directly activated by a range of environmental factors. Surprisingly, WaTx directly enters TRPA1-containing sensory nerve cells through their plasma membrane and bypasses transport by channel proteins. WaTx can keep the TRPA1 channel open, which eliminates its preference for calcium and consequently can trigger a pain response without causing inflammation. WaTx thus produces pain and pain hypersensitivity, but not neurogenic inflammation. These results suggest that it is possible to separate the protective acute pain response from the inflammation that establishes chronic pain, which may lead to the development of novel non-opioid pain therapies.

For more information: https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(19)30779-2.pdf

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