The wandering spider venom provides a 'natural Viagra'
Spider natural viagra Moises Lima

The wandering spider venom provides a ‘natural Viagra’

Natural to South America, the dangerous Brazilian wandering spider has a painful bite – with a curious side effect. Aside from the predictable pain and discomfort, male victims of the spider also experience erections that could last for hours. In extreme cases, those erections could lead to penile necrosis.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the Ezequiel Dias Foundation have been at work for over ten years on a way to use the venom’s properties for medical purposes. Scientists identified and isolated the substance causing the long-lasting erections, a toxin called PnTx(2-6). In the end, the compound turned out to be a relatively short string of amino acids called a peptide.

“We started to study which part of the toxin acted to stimulate erections. We finally concluded that from the 48 amino acid residues in PnTx(2-6), 19 could be used. From that point on, we synthesized the PnPP 19 peptide,” explains Maria Elena de Lima Perez Garcia, from the Department of Chemistry and Neurology at UFMG.

After isolating the compound, the research team tested it on rats. They inserted a small device into each rat’s penis to measure the pressure change and increase of blood flow to the penile vessels. “To our pleasant surprise, the substance didn’t present any toxicity to the animals. Their bodies also didn’t produce antibodies against it. Moreover, PnPP 19 didn’t alter any characteristics of their penises, aside from giving them an erection,” says Garcia.

Drugs

Testing of the new compound has been carried out by researcher Carolina Nunes Silva, whose Ph.D. research is based on the discovery. She believes that a drug based on the peptide could be a fit for patients unable to use more established drugs against erectile dysfunction, like Viagra or Cialis. Recent testing shows that the peptide can stimulate erections in rats with diabetes and hypertension – diseases that could lead to erectile dysfunction. That’s good news, since Viagra and Cialis can both lead to sudden changes in blood pressure.

“Viagra’s biggest problem is that it can’t be used by people with heart problems. So far, we haven’t identified any such problems with [PnPP 19]. We’ve run isolated tests on the hearts of rats as well as on sodium canals that are present only in the myocardium. No reaction was identified,” explains Silva.

Patents

UFMG has patented the biotechnology used to develop PnPP 19. In December 2016, the technology was transferred to Biozeus, a company created in 2012 to connect scientific institutions to pharmaceutical companies.

“We map studies with great potential to generate drugs that could cater to a global demand. And we do trials to test the products’ viability. As the pharmaceutical industry wants to minimize risk, it prefers to invest in projects that are already in more advanced stages. That’s where we come in,” says Perla Borges, an analyst at Biozeus.

Some of the more complex testing is being conducted abroad. Should everything go as planned, a new drug could hit the market as early as 2023. Pre-clinic animal testing can take up to two more years, and human testing an additional four.


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MoneyJan 16, 2018

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