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Tarantula Venom And Chili Peppers Target Same Pain Sensor

— Venom from a West Indian tarantula has been shown to cause pain by exciting the same nerve cells in mice that sense high temperatures and the hot, spicy ingredient in chili peppers, UCSF scientists have discovered.

The findings demonstrate that some plants and animals have evolved the same molecular strategy to deter predators -- triggering pain by activating a specific receptor on sensory nerves. The research provides new tools to understand how these pain- and heat-sensing neurons work, and to help develop drugs that ease persistent pain, the scientists report. Their finding, based on studies of mice cells in culture and live mice, is published in the November 9 issue of the journal Nature. The senior author is David Julius, professor and chair of physiology at UCSF.

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Trinidad chevron tarantula.
(Image courtesy of University of California - San Francisco).

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