Australian stinging tree venom could lead to new non-opioid pain relief

Researchers from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland have made a significant discovery in the study of the venomous Gympie-Gympie tree. The team, led by Professor Irina Vetter, has identified a unique pain pathway targeted by the plant’s toxins, called gympietides, which interact with nerves after being injected by fine needle-like hairs on the leaves.

The researchers found that the gympietide toxin requires a partner protein called TMEM233 to bind and impact sodium channels, a finding that has not been observed before in toxins that cause pain. By understanding this pain mechanism, the team aims to develop new painkillers or anaesthetics that have long-lasting effects without the side effects or dependency issues associated with conventional pain relief.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications and involved the contributions of several researchers, including Sina Jami, Dr. Jennifer Deuis, Tabea Klasfauseweh, and Dr. Thomas Durek.

Source: University of Queensland

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