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Sexy spiders: Venom may be new Viagra

| | February 18, 2015
MAIN Spider
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Humans have been chasing longer and stronger erections for centuries. From ground-up ants and “Spanish flies” to modern drugs, men hope to bring back some magic into a cocked-up sex life. How far would you be willing to go for an erection? Would you take a drug made from genetically modified spider venom? Medical researchers think that will be the next big thing to…. make things bigger.

All ED drugs on the market are phosphodiesterase (PDE5) inhibitors, which work by making muscles in a penis relax. This seems counterintuitive unless you have a firm grasp on how the plumbing of a penis works.

During arousal, valves controlling blood flow into the penis slacken, allowing gravity to fill the penis with blood. This creates internal pressure, so the penis becomes firm. The erection lasts as long as the valves stay open, and this is controlled with a complex series of chemical reactions.

Those chemical reactions are what ED drugs manipulate. Unfortunately, about one in three men taking ED drugs currently available are not helped; and of course there is the occasional side effect of blindness. Enter the Spider.

Brazilian Wandering Spiders, or Banana spiders (Phoneutria nigriventer) are big: over a 5-inch-leg span, or 13 cm. They hunt nocturnally in tropical forests, usually bothering no one except the small animals they eat. They have a reputation that is as as oversized as their body; these spiders rarely travel on bananas, despite their name.

In case studies of 422 Brazilians bitten by these spiders, >90 percent of the bites weren’t medical emergencies. The most common symptoms were pain, sweating, and elevated heart rate. So why are banana spiders so notorious? In a few rare cases, their bite causes priapism. Destin described it well in this video: “Priapism is a medical emergency involving the penis which is terrifying.”

Penises are not supposed to have blood pooling in them for hours at a time. When blood stops circulating, it begins to coagulate and clot. One’s penis is not a good place to develop congestion. Needles, and sometimes scalpels, are involved in fixing that problem.

Read full, original article: GMO Spider Venom May Be the Next Viagra

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