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Fanged fish’s heroin-like venom could lead to pain treatments

Fanged fish’s heroin-like venom could lead to pain treatments

Image: Striped Blenny fish

Researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ), supported by an ARC-funded Discovery Project, have found that a fearless fanged coral reef fish that disables its opponents with heroin-like venom could offer hope for the development of new painkillers. UQ researcher, Associate Professor Bryan Fry, said the venomous fang blenny was found in the Pacific region, including on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The fish injects other fish with opioid peptides that act like heroin or morphine, inhibiting pain rather than causing it,” said Associate Professor Fry. “Its venom is chemically unique. The venom causes the bitten fish to become slower in movement and dizzy by acting on their opioid receptors.” The unique venom meant the fang blenny was more easily able to escape a predator or defeat a competitor. “This study is an excellent example of why we need to protect nature,” he said. “If we lose the Great Barrier Reef, we will lose animals like the fang blenny and its unique venom that could be the source of the next blockbuster pain-killing drug.”

The study involved collaboration with Leiden University and the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands; Monash University; and the Bangor and Anglia Ruskin universities in the UK.

Media issued by The University of Queensland.

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