UC Davis researchers developing non-addictive painkiller made out of tarantula venom

Science

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Researchers at UC Davis are exploring turning tarantula venom into a non-addictive painkiller.

“Spiders and scorpions have millions of years of evolution optimizing peptide, protein and small-molecule poisons in their venom, which we can take advantage of,” entomology professor Bruce Hammock said in a news release from UC Davis Health.

The project is a part of a government initiative to develop solutions to the country’s opioid crisis.

Roughly 50 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some sort of chronic pain, according to researchers. Of those, health officials say 11 million have pain described as “high impact,” which lasts three months or longer and restricts activities.

“For strong pain, drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin are just not strong enough. Opioids are strong enough, but they have the problem of tolerance development and addiction,” pharmacology professor Heike Wulff, one of two professors leading the research, said in the release.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, nearly 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2019.

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