Islamabad, September 01: Scorpion toxin targets the “wasabi receptor,” a specific receptor in nerve cells that helps humans react to wasabi, cigarette smoke, and environmental pollutants. According to new research, the toxin’s unusual mechanism of action means that it could help scientists learn more about chronic pain.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, conducted the study.
For the research, the scientists isolated a toxin called WaTx from the venom of the Australian Black Rock scorpion.
How scorpion toxins affect nerves
The scientists’ goal in isolating compounds in venom was ultimately to study the wasabi receptor, a sensory receptor that is also called TRPA1.
Upon activation, this receptor opens up and allows ions to flow into the cell, which triggers pain and inflammation.
“Think of TRPA1 as the body’s ‘fire alarm’ for chemical irritants in the environment,” says John Lin King, a doctoral student in UCSF’sneuroscience graduate program and lead author of the study.
How the wasabi receptor toxin is different
Although the scorpion toxin triggers the wasabi receptor in the same way as these other substances, using the same sites on the receptor, it activates it in a different way. This mechanism was previously unknown.
Potential for studying chronic pain
The researchers feel that their study could help further the understanding of acute pain, as well as clarifying the link between chronic pain and inflammation.
Prior to this study, the researchers believed that there was no way to distinguish between chronic pain and inflammation within a laboratory setting, but this research has shown this assumption to be untrue.