Science Market Update

Duke Researchers Use Tarantula Venom to Stop Cartilage Cell Death

Posted by Laura Braden on Tue, Dec 30, 2014

Durham, NC life science researchers found a way to use tarantula venom to stop the death of cartilage cells. Anyone with arachnophobia will tell you how terrifying spiders are, especially some of the larger ones like tarantulas. One of the biggest fears people report is getting bitten by a poisonous spider. Even though tarantula venom is very weak and not deadly to humans, the thought of getting bitten can cause some people to tremble with fear.

Scientists at Duke University aren't afraid, though, and have found a way to use tarantula venom in a positive way to to help advance their research. (Image on left courtesy of Wikipedia).

Life science researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, with support from the NIH, have discovered that there is a substance in tarantula venom that can help keep cartilage cells from dying, which can help avoid long-term joint pain.  

Cartilage helps connect and protect joints, but injuries caused by sports or some infections can damage or kill cartilage cells, and without these cells joint movement becomes a lot more painful. Cartilage also doesn't have it's own blood supply which means it takes a lot longer for cartilage cells to be repaired then other cells in the body. 

Researchers at Duke tested GsMTx4 from tarantula venom on cell cultures in petri dishes. Two ion channels that are located on cartilage cells in joints - Piezo1 and Piezo2 - have the ability to work together when an injury occurs to destroy cartilage cells. Duke University researchers, however, recently discovered that the substance GsMTx4 found in tarantula venom can block these two ion channels, effectively stopping the death of cartilage cells. (Image on right courtesy of Wikimedia).    

This project tested the GsMTx4 on cell cultures in petri dishes, but with further research and testing, the use of this GsMTx4 substance could potentially be used to create new drug targets to protect joints from losing their cartilage cells and prevent the pain that comes with cartilage injuries. 

The life science research marketplace at Duke University is expanding, with new grants and awards being given to life science researchers to support and further their projects. Duke University researchers are currently working on many projects that are receiving funding, including: 


  • $137 million over 6 years - Research into an HIV vaccine (currently in the 3rd year)
  • $47 million over 5 years - Biomedical research advances to patient care in the Duke Translational Medicine Institute (currently in the 2nd year)
  • $20 million over 5 years - To evaluate the effectiveness of different treatment strategies for women with uterine fibroids (currently in the 1st year)
  • $20 million - To expand clinical and research program development in the sports medicine program 
  • $15 million - To support an innovative research program that explores the use of umbilical cord blood cells to treat autism, stroke, cerebral palsy and related brain disorders.

With so much life science funding, Duke research labs are able to frequently purchase new lab equipment to use in their work. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. produces an annual vendor show at Duke University that gives science supply companies the opportunity to market their lab products directly to researchers at Duke University. The upcoming 16th annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event on May 13, 2015 at Duke is expected to attract nearly 200 active life science researchers interested in finding the best products and technologies to use in their labs. 

Are you with either with a science supply company interested in learning more about this targeted marketing opportunity, or are you a researcher in Durham, NC interested in attending this event? Visit the appropriate link below to learn more about participating at Duke University in May 2015. 

Duke Exhibitors click here            Researchers: Duke Event click here


Tags: Duke University, Southern, 2015, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Durham, NC, Duke

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