Published: Tue, April 04, 2017
Health Care | By Jan Bell

This Fanged Fish Might Someday Help Ease Your Pain

This Fanged Fish Might Someday Help Ease Your Pain

The tiny fish Meiacanthus nigrolineatus, also known as the fanged blenny fish, doesn't look like much, but it has a secret weapon to keep predators at bay: venom. It apparently also causes a sharp drop in blood pressure for the bitten fish, which would immediately affect its coordination and ability to swim. New research into the fang blenny family tree reveals how their fangs and venom evolved - and hints at how these fish disable potential predators with a heroin-like, pain-killing venom. Scientists still need to conduct more studies and tests of the fang blennies' venom, but it could signify a potential breakthrough for the painkiller crisis.

And when the researchers injected lab mice with the venom, the mice experienced zero pain.

The fang blenny's venom contains a neuropeptide that occurs in cone snail venom, a lipase similar to one from scorpions, and an opioid peptide.

Bryan Fry, from the University of Queensland, explained that fish with venomous spines on their bodies "produce immediate and blinding pain". "They would be more likely to drown than win gold".

The fang blennies are small fish, and researchers struggled to get the venom.

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Casewell believes that all of the mimicking that takes place among those fishes is ultimately stimulated by the venom system that the fang blennies have.

Losing the Great Barer Reef could lead to the extinction of creatures like blennies and even have anadverse impact on new painkiller development, according to Fry. They make their living by nibbling on the scales and fins of bigger fish. Then "we would just put a little cotton swab in front of them and they would instantly bite it and seconds later they were back in the water", Fry says. This acts to slow-down a would-be predator (such as grouper fish) allowing the tiny blenny fish to escape.

Fry: Defensive venoms, whether those in cobras or in stingrays, are well known for their extreme pain-inducing action. One bite of the predator's gums or tongue and the venom will make the it shake, quiver, and open its jaws and gills really wide - giving the blenny a clean escape.

Unlike the toxins emitted by other poisonous fish, the venom isn't lethal.

For the study, the researchers analyzed venoms extracted from fang blennies.

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Scientists and researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia have found the poison is "chemically unique".

Fang blennies live in the Pacific region, including on the Great Barrier Reef, and are popular as ornamental tropical aquarium fish.

Two big teeth on its lower jaw are the responsible with catching and biting the prey, and then poisoning them with the venom. "While the feeling of pain is not produced, opioids can produce sensations of extremely unpleasant nausea and dizziness [in mammals]".

Fry says that this discovery is an excellent example of why we must urgently protect all of nature; it is impossible to predict where the next wonder drug will come from.

"If we lose the Great Barrier Reef, we will lose animals like the fang blenny and its unique venom".

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