Tarantula toxin untangles pain pathways

Posted from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2016/jun/06/tarantula-toxin-untangles-pain-pathways

A novel skillful editorial pertaining to brain health.

A toxin isolated from the Togo starburst tarantula provides new insights into pain mechanisms and could lead to new treatments for irritable bowel syndrome

With their large, hairy bodies and long legs, tarantulas are an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare. For pain researchers, however, these outsized spiders are a dream come true: Their venom contains a cocktail of toxins, each of which activates pain-sensing nerve fibres in different ways, and researchers in the United States have now identified one such toxin that will help them to better understand pain, and could also lead to treatments for the chronic pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Physical pain signals are transmitted from the body to the brain by specialised sensory neurons called nociceptors. These pain-sensing neurons have cell bodies located just outside the spinal cord, and possess a single conductive fibre that splits in two, with one branch extending out towards the skin surface, and the shorter one entering the back of the cord.

Related: Uncomfortably numb: The people who feel no pain

Related: Researchers identify gatekeeper neurons that control pain and itch

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