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Brazil Spider Offers Hope for Those Suffering from Erectile Dysfunction

In Brazil, emergency room staff can immediately spot the victims of a bite from the Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria nigriventer). Patients not only experience// overall pain and an increase in blood pressure, they also sport an uncomfortable erection. And therein perhaps lies the key to the quest for more Viagras. Scientists say they have figured out the chemical that seems to be responsible for the penis boost.

“The erection is a side effect that everybody who gets stung by this spider will experience along with the pain and discomfort,” said study team member Romulo Leite of the Medical College of Georgia. “We’re hoping eventually this will end up in the development of real drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”

The research was presented at a poster session of the American Physiological Society (APS) annual meeting at Washington.

A recent, nationally representative study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that about 18 million men in the United States suffer from erectile dysfunction. Research has shown that about one in three men with mild to moderate forms of erectile dysfunction don’t respond to Viagra, with some of these men having success with either Levitra or Cialis. And men with severe erectile dysfunction have less success with the drugs.

Kenia Pedrosa Nunes of the Medical College Georgia, Leite and colleagues separated the different components of the spider venom and ran tests on rats to eek out the erectile enhancer. Dubbed Tx2-6, the compound turned out to be a relatively short string of amino acids called a peptide.

Then, they injected the venom-chemical into rats stimulated to begin an erection. A tiny needle-like device inserted into each rat’s penis measured the pressure change, which corresponds with the increase in blood flow to the blood vessels inside the penis. Compared with control rats, those injected with the peptide showed a significant increase
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