Venom of Tiny Tropical Fish 'Fang Blenny' Could Inhibit Pain Just Like Opioids

Mar 31, 2017 11:08 AM EDT

A new study from the University of Queensland revealed that the venom of this cute little fish living in the Pacific region could become the next "blockbuster pain-killing drug."

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that the colorful coral fish known as fang blenny has a chemically unique venom that causes its victim to experience a sudden drop in its blood pressure. Usually, venoms cause excruciating pain to the victims.

"Fang blennies are the most interesting fish I've ever studied and have one of the most intriguing venoms of them all," said Associate Professor Bryan Fry, a researchers at University of Queensland and lead author of the study, in a press release. "These fish are fascinating in their behavior. They fearlessly take on potential predators while also intensively fighting for space with similar sized fish."

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For the study, the researchers analyzed venoms extracted from fang blennies. The researchers found three interesting components in the venom: a neuropeptide, an enzyme similar to one found in scorpion venom and an opioid peptide.

Additionally, the researchers discovered that not all species of fang blennies have venom glands. Only about 30 out of 100 species of fang blennies are venomous.

The researchers noted that the opioid peptide found in fang blennies' venom act like heroin and morphine, inhibiting pain rather than causing it. When they injected the venom into mouse, the researchers noticed that the rodents did not show any signs of pain.

However, the researchers observed a 40 percent drop in the mice's blood pressure. Normally, opioid peptide act as painkiller in the central nervous system, but it can also cause blood pressure to drop.

Fang blennies are colorful coral fish that are only about two inches long. They have two large grooved canine, which they use to deliver the venom to their victims. The researchers believe that this little fish use its venom to temporarily incapacitate its predators while it swims away to safety.

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