An approximate number of 46,000 species of spiders crawl away in all the parts of the globe, everywhere except in Antarctica. The venom the arachnids produce has an average of 500 different toxins, which makes for a total number of more than 22 million different venom compounds across their species. Their diversity isn't only unique, but could also be helpful in scientific approaches.
The venom is only a recent subject to scientific research, and a new study suggests that the protein structures across various venom chemicals could help create anti-venom and insecticide medicines.
Greta Binford at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and Jessica Garb at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell are among the very few scientists involved in studying the properties of venom and their possible uses for medical purposes.
"For some reason, I tend to gravitate to those really dangerous spiders like the black widow. But with their shiny black body adorned with the red hourglass, they're actually quite elegant," noted Garb.
Both of the women are involved in analyzing the structures of the venom chemicals, looking for indicators that could help them understand the reasons for which some of the compounds in the venom are lethal, since others are essentially harmless.
The two scientists use the means of molecular biology, along with highly specific tools in order to compare the genomes of spiders with extremely noxious venoms to the ones with non-poisonous venoms. The differences could help understand the chemical principles for which the black widows are so dangerous, while the house spider could never hurt anyone.
The scientists' data could potentially increase the underlying mechanisms of the spiders' venom evolution, which at its turn could bring a massive contribution that could lead to discovering new medicines, among which anti-venoms and insecticides.
Additionally, since a large number of the deadlier spider venoms produce toxic effects, as they over-stimulate the production of brain signaling molecules, the research could debunk the tools we could use when carrying out neuroscience research.
Among the deadliest spiders, the Sicarius are some of the most frightening. Binford is currently studying some of the toxins found in this species' venom. Some of the toxins she found share similarities with the ones present in the brown recluse, but the Sicarius are significantly bigger, implying that their venom is also significantly more concentrated, which results in a faster death of their preys.
While there has been some scientific preoccupation for these animals up until now, most of it was focused on the manner the creatures survive, and their mechanical means. For instance, researchers have studied the ways spiders use silk as sails in water. However, this new recent preoccupation could lead to improvements in our standard medication, provided compatibilities will be found.