The Newest Erectile Dysfunction Drug? Genetically Modified Spider Venom
The latest erectile dysfunction drug could be genetically modified spider venom.
Erectile dysfunction impacts an estimated 30 million American men and that number is growing. Why do more and more men have difficulty getting and staying in the mood, if you know what I mean? Well, it’s partially because getting an erection often has a lot to do with your overall health. ED is caused by a number of factors including heart disease, obesity, certain prescription drugs, sleep problems, and alcohol use as well as stress. And the more that men are hit with chronic illness as they age, the less likely they are to be able to bump and grind.
That’s why ED has opened up the dams to a rush of pharmaceutical wealth. From Cialis to Viagra the market is huge and as more men fall into this category, the cash flow increases. Enter genetically modified spider venom, the newest addition to the world of erectile dysfunction drugs.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: ED is caused by a lack of blood flow to the penis. Most prescription ED drugs are phosphodiesterase inhibitors, which relax the muscles allowing blood to flow more freely. The erection lasts as long as the blood and the erection valves stay open. That’s where the Brazilian wandering spider comes into the picture.
It’s the world’s most venomous spider and all five species are found in Brazil and throughout Latin America. The mega-spiders have a leg span reaching six inches and while 90 percent of their bites don’t cause a medical emergency, they’re famous for one particular malady. They can cause priapism, when blood pools in the penis, a positive when it comes to erection.
Since it isn’t exactly realistic to track down entire populations of the venomous spiders for use in an ED drug, scientists are using genetically modified spider cells to replicate the venom. Although we’re still years from the spider venom hitting the market.
According to Wired:
A synthetic way to make lots of a biological product already exists for drug creation. By harnessing genetically modified bacteria, we now grow insulin, tissue plasminogen activator, and human growth hormone in commercial quantities. GMO drug production is not new.
In 2014, researchers successfully created a recombinant baculovirus with the PnTx2-6 gene. They then used this to infect a culture of caterpillar cells which produced the spider toxin.
While from a distance it may seem like a lot of effort for an ED drug, there’s big money in it considering that sales for Cialis and Viagra alone reached $4 billion last year. And if you watch any television show with an older audience, then you know how big the market is. It seems every other commercial is aimed at those with ED. But would ED sufferers be willing to take a genetically modified spider venom as an erectile dysfunction drug? That remains to be seen.
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Image of a Brazilian wandering spider from Shuttershock
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