Researchers at University of Queensland and from China have found that the venom used by a Chinese red-headed centipede in paralyzing its prey harbors a molecule that could be more effective than morphine in blocking pain.
Co-author of the study, Professor Glenn King revealed that there are nine different human proteins, known as voltage-gated sodium channels or Nav, that influence electrical signaling in neurons and other excitable cells. Studies have also shown that Nav 1.7 channel has a key role in pain transmission in the human body and people who have a mutation of this protein are unable to feel pain.
The researchers found that a molecule present in the centipede venom displayed 150 times selectivity for Nav1.7 over other Nav channels. On testing the peptide molecule by injecting a high dose into mice, the researchers did not find any side effects while thermal and acid-induced pain tests revealed that it had an effect similar to morphine and chemical-induced pain experiments showed it to be more effective than morphine.