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Toxin from Genetically Modified, World’s Most Venomous Spider Could Treat Erectile Dysfunction

World’s Most Venomous Spider

Image credit: Nashepard, via Shutterstock. Brazilian wandering spider.

In the past years, humans have been making efforts in treatment of erectile dysfunction in some strange and weird ways. For instance, ancient Egyptians believing that it was an evil spell that caused impotence, so they thought that getting rid of the curse was to grind up baby crocodile hearts and then smear them over the penis. During the medieval days, witches were blamed; therefore, men would trace the said perpetrators and force them to restore their erections, in some cases in a more violent way.

With development of modern medicine, it is unnecessary to kill baby animals or torture women any longer. Instead, we could resort to some effective drugs available on the market. However, sometimes such drugs are imperfect, so scientists are trying to identify some alternatives. Fortunately, they might have found one from spider venom, an unexpected source never discovered before. While such promising molecule collected from an aggressive spider in Brazil, has not been tested on humans yet, new research carried out by scientists in the Catholic University of Korea has revealed that it could succeed in improvement of erectile function in rats, making it possible to deal with impotence in men. This latest study has been released in the recent edition of Urology.

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, means that men are unable to have or keep an erection, which in fact is very common, because it is estimated that half of all men aged from forty to seventy have it to some extent. Its causes are varied in both physical and psychological senses, for example, narrowing of the blood vessels moving to the penis or anxiety and depression could lead to such phenomenon.

As there are various causes here, treatment should be targeted on the source of the problem, for instance, it is suggested to go for psychological treatments or take medications like Viagra to increase blood flow to the penis. While the effectiveness chance of such drugs is 8 in 10, there are also some undesirable  like bloody urine or even blurred vision. To tackle such problems, some scientists are working hard to look for some new and effective treatments in this regard. As a result, a novel therapy could be used with the finding of a protein in the spider venom which is highly toxic.

As early as in 2000, researchers identified its therapeutic potential when they were engaged in a study focused on the wandering spider bites affecting people in Brazil. In regard to different symptoms reported, some men were observed to have priapism, namely abnormally long erections. After the careful examination of the venom in their lab, scientists were finally able to isolate the compound responsible, a protein known as PnTx2. Just like the way in which bacteria was used to generate insulin, researchers produced the protein in cultured caterpillar cells in the lab by application of a modified virus, known as baculovirus.

In the following step, scientists had tested out their supply of PnTx2-6 on rat models with the problem of erectile dysfunction because of injured nerves that failed to help erections. To their surprise, the spider venom could not only greatly restore blood flow to the erectile tissue, but also was able to prevent muscle wastage. With such new discovery, the researchers had drawn a conclusion that while PnTx2-6 was helpful in improving erectile function in the tested rats, it could be regarded as a promising treatment applied to humans. Although there is still some way to go before its actual application, it should be an interesting beginning anyway.

Source: Medical Xpress

Journal reference:Jung, Ae Ryang, et al. “The Effect of PnTx2-6 Protein From Phoneutria nigriventer Spider Toxin on Improvement of Erectile Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Cavernous Nerve Injury.” Urology 84.3 (2014): 730-e9.