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Scorpion venom kills pain in mice

Toxin works with nerve proteins to block distress signals’ journey to brain

2:45pm, October 24, 2013

NO PAIN  An Arizona bark scorpion makes a tasty lunch for the carnivorous southern grasshopper mouse. Proteins in the mouse’s nerves prevent pain signals triggered by the scorpion’s sting from reaching the brain.

Tiny desert-dwelling rodents have found a way to take the sting out of scorpion venom.

A protein in the nerves of southern grasshopper mice hijacks the venom’s toxins, silencing pain signals that usually race to the brain when scorpions strike. The protein and venom together can even numb the animals to other types of agony, researchers report in the Oct. 25 Science.

“In these mice, the venom actually works like a painkiller,” says neuroscientist Frank Bosmans of Johns Hopkins University who was not involved with the work.

The Arizona bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus, wields particularly nasty venom. “It’s pretty painful,” says study coauthor Ashlee Rowe, an evolutionary neurobiologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “People say it feels like being branded, or burned with a cigarette, and then driving a nail in.” A hefty

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