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Solving the Mystery of Chronic Pain

According to a CDC report published in 2016, roughly 20.4% of all adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, while 8 percent of U.S. adults suffer from high-impact chronic pain. Unfortunately, treating chronic pain has remained a challenge due to the general mystery surrounding its causes. Chronic pain has mostly been managed through the use of opioids.

Researchers recently discovered a scorpion toxin that may finally unlock the mystery of chronic pain. This could lead to more effective treatment options in the near future.

How Scorpion Toxins Could Solve the Mystery of Chronic Pain

The scorpion toxin, nicknamed the “wasabi receptor” is a protein found in nerve cells. It’s that protein which causes the “sting” to the sinuses you feel when you taste wasabi. It’s also what causes you to cry tears when chopping an onion. The scorpion poison triggers a pain response through a previously unknown mechanism, which is why it’s believed it could be key to the mystery of chronic pain and inflammation.

This toxin was discovered in the Australian Black Rock scorpion during the research of animal venoms. Scientists were searching for compounds that could activate the wasabi receptor.

When the wasabi receptor is activated, a passageway opens, allowing sodium and calcium ions to enter the cell. This is what causes pain and inflammation associated with wasabi, onions, and even cigarette smoke. The point of the wasabi receptor is to let you know you’re being exposed to something dangerous.

The wasabi receptor toxin is a defensive response meant to deter mammal predators. It is unique in the way it forces itself into the cell through its membrane, which few proteins are capable of. The discovery of this toxin could allow scientists to research the processes that lead to pain hypersensitivity, which could be useful in better understanding the mystery of chronic pain.

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