DAVIS (CBS13) – Tarantulas are normally something you would scream in horror at first sight.
But, researchers at UC Davis hope to turn that into cries of joy.
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“Nature offers such a great diversity of proteins, you know, which for us are building blocks of future drugs,” said Dr Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, UC Davis Health.
Yarov-Yarovoy is one of the main researchers in charge of a team of 20 people.
What they do is reprogram the proteins in the venom called peptides from these hairy spiders and turn them into a pain reliever.
“We are redesigning this peptide to make it more selective for particular receptors in our nervous system that are highly responsible for pain signals,” Yarov-Yarovoy said.
âWe expect this to be a real game-changer,â said research team member Phuong Nguyen.
For some members of the team, this was a no-brainer to help get a head start on the opioid epidemic.
âFor us, it’s cool. Really cool because maybe a few of us are doing that, âNguyen said.
âBecause it’s related to the safety of the drug in the future. We want to make it as safe as possible, âYarov-Yarovoy said.
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The team is looking at various computer-generated models with a program called Rosetta and microscopes to see how to turn the protein into this new drug.
So far, the results are revealing, as are the spiders they are testing.
“It already looks promising to be as potent as morphine but without the side effects of opioids,” Yarov-Yarovoy said.
This local part of an INSA initiative could take some time – at least five years – before new drugs are released for sale.
Even if it takes crawling to the finish line, it’s an important victory in the opioid pandemic, all thanks to a little venom.
âAll of these steps, all of these years are worth it to create a new, safe pain treatment,â Yarov-Yarovoy said.
UC Davis said it’s not the only new pain medication to be created at the university.
In 2020, the FDA granted an expedited designation to a non-narcotic drug developed by another professor for humans and pets.
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Regarding this project, it is still unclear at this time what specific type of pain reliever it would become. Yarov-Yarovoy said the long-term goal is for it to be something someone can get at a pharmacy, while the short-term goals would be given by injection at a clinic or other medical facility.